The Mike Pence solo tour is officially underway––a comeback that could mark the start of his 2024 presidential campaign. On Thursday, the former vice president spoke at a crowded function hosted by a conservative group in Columbia, South Carolina, where he lobbed proverbial red meat at dinner guests. Pence used his half hour speech before the Palmetto Family Council to praise the Donald Trump administration’s accomplishments, lash out at Joe Biden’s “war on traditional American values,” and explain how the GOP can start “winning” again.
While Pence did not declare his intent to run for president, his choice of venue is particularly telling given that South Carolina is arguably the most vital state in the Republican primary. One Pence adviser did not explicitly comment on his 2024 ambitions, but told Business Insider that the ex-VEEP is “reminding everyone he’s returning from where he came, and honestly I think that’s going to be a pretty bold speech.” Targetting the incumbent president as the enemy, Pence accused the “radical” Biden administration of implementing “an avalanche of liberal policies” and government overspending. “After 100 days of open borders, runaway spending, plans for higher taxes, a bigger welfare state, more government, defunding the police, abandoning the right to life, canceling our most cherished liberties, I’ve had enough,” he said. “After 100 days, I think the time has come for Americans devoted to faith and family and freedom and limited government to stand up and to unite behind a positive agenda and win back America, and it starts right here and right now in South Carolina.”
Pence didn’t use too much of his speaking time on Trump. But his supportive mentions of the former president were notable given the reported rift that arose between them in the final days of the administration. Namely, Trump wanted Pence to use his powers as Senate president to reject the electoral votes of states that he lost, and Pence declined.
Trump, who has said he is considering another run for the presidency in 2024, publicly criticized Pence earlier this month while speaking at the RNC’s spring retreat––ironically billed as a GOP unity conference. And where Trump’s inner circle was once willing to accept Pence on the ticket to lure the evangelical vote, they have since cooled on the former veep. “The vice president’s foray into 2024 politics will be met with a more reserved golf clap,” a former Trump senior administration official told Politico, describing Trump and Pence’s relationship as “cordial but not intimate.” A former campaign aide added: “I like Mike Pence. I think he was a great V.P. A great guy. But the reality is a large portion of the Trump base doesn’t like him or care about him…his ability to attract new voters wasn’t really there.”
That attitude has evidently trickled down from the top, where Trump has begun to publicly consider Pence replacements for his potential 2024 bid. “Well, he’s a friend of mine. I endorsed Ron [DeSantis]. And after I endorsed him [in 2018], he took off like a rocket ship,” Trump told Fox Business on Thursday—the same day as Pence’s comeback speech. “He’s done a great job as governor,” he said, adding that “a lot of people like” a hypothetical Trump-DeSantis ticket: “They love that ticket. But certainly, Ron would be considered. He’s a great guy.”
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