In focus groups, Republican voters are brutal in their assessment of the former vice president.
Mike Pence is making little secret of his presidential ambitions. He’s written his book; he’s assembling his team; he’s mastered the art of the coy nondenial when somebody asks (in between trips to Iowa) if he’s running. In early Republican-primary polls, he hovers between 6 and 7 percent—not top-tier numbers, but respectable enough. He seems to think he has at least an outside shot at winning the Republican nomination.
And yet, ask a Republican voter about the former vice president, and you’re likely to hear some of the most withering commentary you’ve ever encountered about a politician.
In recent weeks, I was invited to sit in on a series of focus groups conducted over Zoom. Organized by the political consultant Sarah Longwell, the groups consisted of Republican voters who’d supported Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020. The participants were all over the country—suburban Atlanta, rural Illinois, San Diego—and they varied in their current opinions of Trump. In some cases, Longwell filtered for voters who should be in Pence’s target demographic. One group consisted entirely of two-time Trump voters who didn’t want him to run again; another was made up of conservative evangelicals, who might presumably appreciate Pence’s roots in the religious right.