Can Mike Pence beat his former boss, Donald Trump, for the 2024 nomination?
Almost certainly not – but that doesn’t mean Pence isn’t going to give it a shot. He seems to have nothing to lose.
Officially speaking, the GOP presidential field remains unclear. But the general contours of the field appear to be taking form. Outside of Donald Trump, no major player has announced his or her candidacy – but safe money says Mike Pence (plus Ron DeSantis and Ted Cruz) will run against Trump for the 2024 ticket.
Safe money also says that Pence won’t fare well; he is significantly less likely to secure the ticket than either Trump or DeSantis.
The Mike Pence Factor for 2024
Granted, Pence is a national figure. And the vice presidency is correctly viewed as a launching pad for the presidency itself. Biden, Bush 41, Ford, Nixon, LBJ, Truman – they all served as vice presidents before taking the presidency. Gore and Mondale served as vice president, too, before becoming their party’s standard bearer in a general election (which they both lost).
So, Pence has presidential credentials and pedigree. He also hails from the hotly contested Midwest and appeals to evangelicals and staunch conservatives. Pence is, in all respects, a formidable figure.
But Pence dwells in Trump’s shadow. What Pence does is weighed, almost by default, in relation to Trump. Know what I mean?
Trump’s reaction to what Pence says or does is a bigger story than what Pence says or does. And the biggest Pence storylines all relate directly to Trump: Will Pence testify for the House’s January 6th commission about Trump’s behavior; will Pence speak with DOJ regarding Trump’s behavior; Pence released a book – what does it say about Trump!?
To me, the patterns and tendencies of the Pence versus Trump discussion suggest concretely that Trump is still a far more prominent figure than Pence; in any contest between Pence and Trump, it will be Trump with the upper hand.
Trump Can Be Beat
Now, that’s not to say Trump is unbeatable. Maybe he was at one point, say in 2018 or 2019. But Trump’s stock has never been lower. He lost the 2020 election, which for an incumbent president is usually a career-ending sort of thing; he lost in 2021; he lost drastically in 2022.
Really, Trump is on an epic losing streak – and the GOP is starting to notice. Several prominent GOP figures, even Trump loyalists, have begun to suggest the GOP may want to pivot towards the next generation of leadership.
Aside from losing election after election, Trump is also embroiled in controversy, lawsuits, and investigations. Most recently, Trump is facing heat for having a Thanksgiving dinner at Mar-a-Lago with antisemite Kanye West and white supremacist Nick Fuentes.
Then there’s the NY lawsuit alleging that The Trump Organization committed egregious fraud. And there’s the investigation into Trump’s alleged mishandling of sensitive documents. Oh, and the ongoing investigations into January 6th.
Trump has a lot going on. Most of it is terrible.
But he’s still Trump. He still has one of the most fervent, loyal bases in U.S. political history. Michael Pence, on the other hand, does not have a fervent, loyal base. Nor is Pence even the most formidable challenger. That distinction belongs to Ron DeSantis who many are beginning to regard as the heir-apparent to the Republican Party.
If anyone is going to dethrone Trump it won’t likely be his former vice president.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.