INDIANAPOLIS — Mike Pence and I used to compare career notes to Acapulco Joe back when he started his radio show and I started Howey Politics Indiana. In 2010, I wrote that the congressman should run for president, saying it might be his best and only opportunity.
Then there was the August 8, 2019 column, when I suggested that Vice President Pence might want to drop out of President Trump’s re-election campaign.
My analysis was that this was a “reckless” course for Pence, with my penultimate paragraph: “It’s flint and spark in extreme drought conditions. President Trump is not uniting Americans, he is exploiting the urban/rural divide along racial lines that are strained these days. A stray spark caused by the right quote at the wrong time could have devastating consequences.
Like this: “And I hope Mike does the right thing. I hope. I hope. Because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.
And this: “Now it’s up to Congress to deal with this blatant assault on our democracy. And after that, we’re going down, and I’ll be there with you, we’re going down… because you’ll never take back our country in weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.
I hadn’t specifically considered the Capitol insurrection of January 6, but something like that. And my final paragraph: “Now Pence risks taking all of Trump’s incendiary baggage. The shrewdest decision Mike Pence can make today is to turn down a second veep nomination and then prepare for 2024 on his own terms.
We all know now that the Trump/Pence ticket was run again in 2020. They lost the election by 7 million votes, the Electoral College 306-232, against the backdrop of Trump’s persistent “big lie” about the 2020 elections that was not stolen. And that led to the fateful day of January 6, when Trump drove an armed mob to attack the US Capitol. The rebellion came within a few dozen yards of their objective that day, which was, in their words, “Hang Mike Pence.”
Pence waited out the assault on an underground Capitol loading dock, finished his constitutional duty around 3 a.m. on Jan. 7, declaring Joe Biden would run for president. And he’s been in GOP purgatory ever since.
Since Donald Trump took that fateful Manhattan escalator in 2015, kicking off an era in which he won two GOP presidential nominations, he won the Electoral College once, never won the popular vote, was impeached twice times and blasted GOP congressional majorities like the second coming of Herbert Hoover, establishing his narcissistic fascist creed along the way.
According to Nathan Gonzales writing in Roll Call, “There simply isn’t a viable path to the Oval Office for Pence.” He cites an April Echelon Insights poll that shows Florida Governor Ron DeSantis leads Pence 34-14% in an area without Trump, as well as a New York Times/Siena poll showing Trump leads DeSantis 49-14%. 24% with Pence at 6%.
“Even though Pence has nearly universal name identification among Republicans, there simply isn’t an appetite for the former Republican Party vice president right now,” Gonzalez observes. “The former Indiana congressman has lost his credibility with both factions of today’s GOP.”
Republican strategist Sarah Longwell told MSNBC’s Morning Joe that the focus groups she led during the Jan. 6 committee hearings are gradually driving GOP voters away from Trump, but added that “there could be no less interest” for Pence.
Last Friday and again on Tuesday, Pence and Trump engaged in an outburst of proxy warfare over the Arizona gubernatorial race (with a Trump-backed Holocaust denier and the Pence-backed establishment nominee ). Trump drew a crowd of several thousand to whom he insisted he had been “persecuted”. Pence attracted about 300
On Tuesday, Pence was in Washington to address the Young America Foundation where he confronted “big tech, big media and big government.”
“I don’t know if the president and I disagree on any issues, but we may differ on direction,” Pence continued, referring to Trump. “I really believe that elections are about the future and that they are absolutely essential.”
Trump spoke the same day from about a mile away and passed his time before his First America Group focused on “sink America” and the “stolen” 2020 election. It was a redux of his 2017 “American carnage” inaugural speech.
Trump described an America whose “streets are riddled with needles and soaked in the blood of innocent victims”; he warned of “sadists preying on children” while “dangerously deranged people roam our streets with impunity.” He said the United States should emulate China’s criminal justice system with its “speedy two-hour trials” for defendants.
David Drucker of the Washington Examiner described the confrontation as “the most acrimonious American political divorce in generations. Since President Theodore Roosevelt turned on his protege, William Howard Taft, the nation has not seen anything quite like it.
Trump was toying with his aggrieved base, which doesn’t care about politics at all. It is set to take up its base above the cliff in 2024.
Polls show a reckoning for Mike Pence. They tell him… wait until 28. Let the Trump fever break out. Follow Richard Nixon’s strategy of 1966 and be there for negative-ballot Republicans, then run in two years.
But hey, what do I know?