If Donald Trump officially enters the next presidential race, that doesn’t mean his former vice president will stay out of the contest.
Mike Pence spent much of his vice presidency quietly catering to the whims of President Donald Trump. But on January 6, he broke with Trump by refusing to overturn the 2020 election results. And now, Pence is eyeing a presidential run of his own, even though his old boss hasn’t ruled out a 2024 campaign. Pence wouldn’t necessarily stay out of the race even if Trump jumps in.
“If you know the Pences, you know they’ll always try to discern where they’re being called to serve,” Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, told me. “And I don’t think that is dependent on who else is in or not in the race.”
A 2024 Pence campaign looks futile no matter the scenario. If Trump runs, he’ll rally the same MAGA zealots who refuse to believe he lost the last election. And if Trump opts out, Pence isn’t his natural successor; he may have spoiled any hope of inheriting the Republican base when he defied Trump on January 6. Scanning the Republican universe, it’s hard to detect a glimmer of a Pence-for-president movement of any sort. Which leaves GOP operatives asking a version of the same question: What in the world is Mike Pence thinking?