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The Pence Perception Problem
Won't the real Mike Pence please stand up?
In front of a group of more than a dozen high-dollar Republican donors and fundraisers gathered in Dallas earlier this month, former Vice President Mike Pence made a bold pitch: As a full-spectrum conservative with a proven record of accomplishment at all levels of public service, he was best positioned to win both the Republican nomination in 2024 and the general election.
As Pence prepares to launch his White House bid in the coming weeks, his allies want to amplify that message and cast him as a movement conservative more in the mold of Ronald Reagan than of Donald Trump. A new super PAC, called Committed to America, will support Pence through both a messaging campaign and what its organizers claim will be a robust ground game in early primary states.
“This campaign is going to reintroduce Mike Pence to the country as his own man, not as vice president, but as a true economic, social, and national security conservative—a Reagan conservative,” said Scott Reed, a veteran Republican strategist who helped start Committed to America.
The focus here is on what Mike Pence did as a Congressman and as Governor of Indiana. It separates what few things Pence is remembered for as Vice-President, mainly in his certification of the Presidential Election on January 6th, 2021.
But Pence has a perception problem. At least among the voters for whom he would appeal in a Republican primary.
Mike Pence’s career as an elected official, prior to his acceptance of the Vice-Presidential nomination from Donald Trump, is precisely what Scott Reed says it was. He was a true economic conservative. He was a true social conservative. He was a conservative who cared about our national defense and our
Pre-2016 Mike Pence is the prototype of what a modern conservative should be.
The problem, of course, is the Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s right-hand man. The guy who sat by quietly while Donald Trump increased the size of government, exploded the national debt, and signed Red Flag laws. The guy who stayed at a Trump property that was hours away from his destinations in Ireland when on an official visit as Vice-President. The guy who stood by Trump despite the Access Hollywood video, the Charlottesville rally, the Bible photo-op, and two impeachment trials.
So which one is the real Mike Pence?
The problem that Pence will have is that the real Mike Pence is likely the guy who was a member of Congress and was Governor of Indiana. But his time as Vice-President is the time most prominent thing in the minds of Republicans, both friend and foe of Trump.
Mike Pence would be a far more appropriate person to be a Presidential nominee than Donald Trump ever was. But the road to the convention in Milwaukee next year is going to be a very bumpy one indeed.