Mike Pence suffered the wrath of Trump. Now the ex-vice president wants his old boss’s job in 2024

Former vice president places himself in direct competition with Donald Trump, Joe Sommerlad reports

Wednesday 07 June 2023 12:10 BST
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Mike Pence
Mike Pence (AP)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Former US vice president Mike Pence, the once-loyal sideman to twice-impeached ex-president Donald Trump, will kick off his own attempt to win election to the nation’s top job when he formally announces his campaign at an event in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday.

Mr Pence’s pre-empted that unveiling with a video posted to social media in which he channelled Abraham Lincoln by saying the nation required “different leadership” appealing to “the better angels of our nature”, coming just days after he made his candidacy official by filing the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission.

The ex-Indiana governor’s presidential ambitions are nothing new, Mr Pence having teased a presidential run for months during a string of public appearances. But the advent of an actual campaign rearranges the Republican political chessboard by placing him in direct competition with Mr Trump, his former running-mate.

Mr Pence, now 63, served as a member of the House of Representatives between 2001 and 2013 and as Indiana’s governor between 2013 and 2017 but first rose to international attention as Mr Trump’s running-mate in 2016.

The pair always made for an unlikely double act, with Mr Pence’s quiet, respectful demeanour and devout evangelical Christian faith utterly at odds with the trash-talking New Yorker’s taste for celebrity, glitzy decor and vulgar showmanship.

But Mr Pence remained at his boss’s side throughout his tumultuous one-term presidency, a source of constant support until even his loyalty was tested beyond endurance by the events of 6 January 2021.

After losing the electoral vote to Democrat Joe Biden the previous November by 306 to 232 and the popular vote by 81.3 million ballots to 74.2 million, Mr Trump immediately and baselessly began to insist the contest had been “rigged” in a vast nationwide conspiracy orchestrated by his opponents.

Two months of farcical legal proceedings led by a ragtag group of misfit attorneys — most notably among them ex-New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani — ended with a whimper, as Mr Trump’s allies entirely failed to offer a court any argument that satisfied the legal requirements to bring lawsuits challenging the election, much less any proof of the fraud they had alleged.

Mike Pence announces 2024 presidential run

Increasingly desperate, the president was caught on tape exerting pressure on Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” additional votes in that crucial swing state, before turning his attention to his own deputy, Mr Pence, whom he called upon to weaponise his ceremonial position overseeing a joint session of Congress on 6 January to ratify the election results.

Demanding that Mr Pence rule the election results null and void, Mr Trump piled on the public pressure in a series of tweets and in person on the campaign trail, presumably knowing his vice president was reluctant to follow orders.

“I hope Mike Pence comes through for us,” Mr Trump said in Georgia. “I hope our great vice president comes through for us. He’s a great guy. Of course, if he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him very much.”

Mr Pence refused to comply, instead writing a letter to Congress in which he explained: “I do not believe that the founders of our country intended to invest the vice president with unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted during the joint session of Congress, and no vice president in American history has ever asserted such authority.”

On the day the US Capitol was stormed by enraged Trump supporters attempting to stop the ratification, some participants even erected a gallows and chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” on the National Mall.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence
Donald Trump and Mike Pence (AP)

“To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today: you did not win,” Mr Pence responded in the aftermath, sounding far more presidential than Mr Trump.

“Violence never wins. Freedom wins. And this is still the people’s house. And as we reconvene in this chamber the world will again witness the resilience and strength of our democracy.”

The two men held clear-the-air talks five days after the failed insurrection but their relationship has clearly never recovered.

Speaking at a Republican dinner in New Hampshire in June 2021, Mr Pence told his audience: “You know, President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office. And I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye to eye on that day.”

Mike Pence condemns Trump's impeachment at rally

Mr Pence was born in Columbus, Indiana, on 7 June 1959, one of six children born to Edward and Nancy Pence and is a graduate of Hanover College and the Indiana University School of Law.

He married his wife Karen in 1985 and the couple have three children: Michael, Charlotte and Audrey.

His net wealth has been estimated at $4m, modest compared to some prominent politicians, but has been enhanced significantly post-presidency after he signed a two-book deal with publishing giant Simon & Schuster, thought to be worth around $3-4m, according to industry insiders.

Mr Pence will now find himself in competition not only with Mr Trump but also the likes of Florida governor Ron DeSantis, former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, South Carolina senator Tim Scott, ex-New Jersey governor Chris Christie, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and ex-radio pundit Larry Elder. Ex-New Jersey governor Chris Christie is expected to enter the GOP primary race this week as well.

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