On Wednesday, former Vice President Mike Pence announced his candidacy for the 2024 presidential race with a sharp attack on his former boss and current Republican front-runner, Donald Trump. Despite Pence’s criticisms of Trump, he also highlighted his record in the “Trump-Pence administration” and the challenges faced by his campaign. Pence is competing against other Republican contenders like former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Pence filed paperwork on Monday to officially launch his campaign after most of his Republican competitors had already entered the race. In his kickoff speech in Iowa, Pence said, “When Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, he promised to govern as a conservative. Together we did just that. Today, he makes no such promise.” Pence also directly addressed his falling out with Trump after their losing campaign to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in 2020.
Trump had pushed Pence to reject key Electoral College votes while he was presiding over Congress in a ceremonial role on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to overturn their loss. Pence refused, and Trump denounced him for lacking the “courage” to challenge the already-certified election results. A violent mob, spurred by Trump’s lies about widespread election fraud, stormed the U.S. Capitol, forcing Pence and members of Congress to flee for their safety. Pence criticized Trump’s words, saying they “were reckless” and “endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol.”
Pence said, “The American people deserve to know that on that day, President Trump also demanded that I choose between him and the Constitution. I chose the Constitution, and I always will. My former running mate continues to insist that I had the right to overturn the election. President Trump was wrong then and he is wrong now.” Pence also stated that he has prayed for Trump in the past few years and hoped that he would come around and see that he had been misled about Pence’s role that day, but that was not to be.
Pence Criticizes Trump’s Stance on Abortion
Pence, who preaches a more traditional brand of Republican social conservatism than Trump and another top contender, DeSantis, also criticized Trump over his reluctance to take a hard stance on abortion. After leading the most pro-life administration in American history, Pence said that Trump and others in the race are retreating from the cause of the unborn. The highly polarizing issue became a central component of the 2022 midterm elections, following the Supreme Court ruling overturning the longstanding constitutional right to abortion. Democrats broadly outperformed Republicans, expanding their Senate majority and suffering smaller-than-expected losses in the House.
Pence lamented that Trump treats abortion “as an inconvenience, even blaming election losses on overturning Roe v. Wade.” Pence served more than a decade in the U.S. House and one term as governor of Indiana before becoming Trump’s running mate in his winning 2016 presidential campaign. Despite being seen as one of Trump’s most loyal aides for all four years of his term, Pence has lost favor with a segment of Republican voters following their break over the 2020 election results. Meanwhile, Trump remains the party’s de facto leader, holding a commanding lead in polls of the primary race. Pence’s poll numbers are better than some of his competitors’ but have mostly hovered around the low- to mid-single digits in surveys of the prospective primary field.