By Philip Wegmann for RealClearPolitics
Mike Pence told RealClearPolitics that he and his family “have come to a decision” about whether to launch a bid for the Republican presidential nomination and the White House. And while the former vice president wouldn’t give away the game completely, Pence said he plans to head west.
“We will be announcing our decision next week in Iowa,” Pence told RCP in the clearest signal yet that a presidential campaign is imminent. “Karen and I are looking forward to being back in Iowa, and I’d expect that we’re going to be spending a fair amount of time in Iowa in the days ahead.”
Multiple outlets are reporting that Pence will make his campaign official on June 7 in Des Moines. Home to many evangelical Christians, it is fertile ground for the politician who has long championed socially conservative values. He has been there already, making frequent stops at diners and in church gymnasiums while insisting America “ought to have government as good as our people.”
Taking that case to voters as an official candidate would mean a clash with his old boss, former President Donald Trump. The two men already parted ways after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol when Pence refused to go along with Trump’s plan to overturn the 2020 election. Those close to the former vice president say that a reintroduction to voters is now in order.
Pence will step into the spotlight “not as vice president,” they say, but this time as “his own man.” Because of his time as governor of Indiana and as an outspoken conservative in Congress, they believe that Pence already owns the “constitutional conservative lane.”
He seemed ready to occupy that space during a Thursday interview, telling RCP that Republicans “must resist the siren song of populism unmoored to conservative principle.”
“Elections are always about the future. And I think as Republican primary voters choose our standard-bearer for 2024,” Pence said, “we ought to be looking for that person who has a vision for restoring the country on a foundation of tried-and-true conservative principles, which are strong national defense, limited government, traditional values.”
Hold “the banner of time-honored conservative principles” high, and Pence believes that first a Republican electorate and then “ultimately the majority of the American people will rally to our cause.”
As vice president, up until the end, Pence never broke publicly with Trump or sought attention at his expense, often working quietly behind the scenes to keep a chaotic administration on track while steering it toward those conservative principles. On the eve of his own presidential announcement, Pence did something that would’ve been unusual just two short years before: He critiqued Trump.
While the former vice president reiterated his support for increased defense spending during the Trump years and for emergency funding during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pence said “our administration could have done a better job controlling domestic spending.”
“The time has come for us to produce national leadership that will be honest with the American people about the debt crisis facing future generations,” Pence said.
“I’m going to be a voice for being honest with the American people about the nature of the debt crisis and the need to bring common sense, compassionate solutions to bear on it,” he continued.
Pence has already made a version of that argument while on the ground in early primary season states Iowa and New Hampshire. Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have shied away from conversations about expensive entitlements like Medicare and Social Security. Not Pence. He has laid out in broad strokes a plan to shore up the nation’s finances by, among other things, adopting “common sense reforms for Americans under the age of 40,” changes that wouldn’t affect current retirees or anyone retiring in the next 25 years.
Washington may not have much of an appetite for that kind of seriousness of purpose right now. Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden certainly did not while hammering out a debt-limit compromise. While some may be lauding their ability to negotiate in good faith, Pence is unimpressed.
A former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, Pence said McCarthy ought to start over rather than bring that compromise to the House floor for a vote.
“This has been one more months-long dance to Washington D.C. that doesn’t just kick the can down the road, it uses a smoke and mirrors games to make small reforms at the expense of our national defense,” Pence said, renewing his call for the kind fiscal discipline that will likely be a theme of his campaign. Pointing to those reduced military spending levels, he added, “that, to me, would be reason enough to go back to the drawing board on the debt ceiling deal.”
Though not yet an official candidate, Pence regularly ranks a distant third or fourth in the RealClearPolitics Average. Currently, he sits at 3.8% compared to Trump, who enjoys front-runner status with 53.2%. When asked if he could overcome that deficit, he expressed optimism that “the American people will choose the right standard bearer.”
“I know the midterm elections were a disappointment to many, and it makes them worry about 2024,” Pence said before offering a theory of the case that could soon very well apply to the Republican primary. He said that “candidates who were focused on the future did very well.” He added, “candidates who are focused on the past did not.”
“If our party rallies around a standard-bearer that will focus on the future and focus on a future built on time-honored principles that have always carried the Republican Party to victory,” he told RCP, “I have every confidence that the best days for the country are yet to come.”
Syndicated with permission from RealClearWire.
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