The chances that Mike Pence will be the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 2024 are looking increasingly slim.
Pence, whose anti-LGBTQ+ record goes back to his days in the U.S. House of Representatives and governor of Indiana, isn’t finding much favor with the party faithful, many of whom think he betrayed Donald Trump.
As vice president, overseeing a joint session of Congress in the early hours of January 7, Pence committed what most Trump supporters consider an unforgivable sin — he certified that Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had legitimately been elected president and vice president of the United States. Pence had been under pressure to overturn the election results so he and Trump would stay in office, even though he had no legal power to do so. The certification proceedings had been interrupted the afternoon of January 6, when Trump partisans stormed the U.S. Capitol, chanting “Hang Mike Pence!”
“There are some Trump supporters who think [Pence is] the Antichrist,” Scott County, Iowa, Republican Party Vice Chair Raymond Harre recently told Politico. The degree of hatred directed at Pence is “kind of nutty,” said Harre, who thinks Pence “did a good job as vice president,” but added, “I don’t see him overcoming the negatives.”
Of course, Pence didn’t do a good job for LGBTQ+ Americans, people of color, women, or anyone else who’s not a wealthy white Christian conservative male. Nor would the other Republicans being mentioned as potential presidential candidates, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or the man who easily topped a recent straw poll, Trump himself. But Pence’s right-wing bona fides no longer count for anything with most GOPers, who despise him for doing his constitutional duty.
“With Trumpsters, he didn’t perform when they really wanted him to perform, so he’s DQ’d there,” Iowa Republican activist Doug Gross told Politico. “Then you go to the evangelicals, they have plenty of other choices.”
The never-Trumpers—there are a few of them left in the Republican Party—don’t care for him either. “He’s got to justify to the Trumpistas why he isn’t Judas Iscariot, and then he’s got to demonstrate to a bunch of other Republicans why he hung out with someone they perceive to be a nutjob,” Sean Walsh, a Republican strategist and veteran of the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, told the publication.
Pence was heckled and called “traitor” at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Florida last month. He was received more politely at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa last week, but that’s not likely to help his chances for the presidential nomination.
“Mike Pence’s political career is over,” former Trump adviser Steve Bannon said recently. And Republican consultant Stuart Spencer told Politico, “The Trump people don’t like him, and all the people who were anti-Trump don’t like him.”
A few people, though, say it’s too early to count Pence out. Family Leader President Bob Vander Plaats, whose group sponsored the Iowa event, said that if Trump doesn’t run again, Pence will be “in the top tier” of presidential possibilities.
As for Pence himself, a spokesperson said the former vice president is focused on working for Republican candidates in the 2022 midterms. He also has a book deal, is starting a policy organization, and plans a tour of college campuses. He hasn’t had much to say publicly about the next presidential race, but if he enters it, it doesn’t look like most party members are inclined to support him.