Did Mike Pence just announce he's running for president?
America's #1 cable news channel was the outlet that former vice president Mike Pence chose on Tuesday evening to do everything but formally declare that he will be a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
In an extensive live interview with Bret Baier from New York, where he is promoting his political memoir, So Help Me God, published yesterday (including an hour-long town hall on CNN tonight), Pence used the high-profile platform of Fox News to position himself as a sane, moderate, Christian-inspired alternative to President Trump as well as any other candidates among the growing number who plan to challenge President Biden in two years. He came right up to the edge of declaring he's the one to return the country to the successes of the Trump-Pence administration without the drama and baggage that he implied surrounded Donald Trump.
Bret Baier and Mike Pence on Fox News Channel's Special Report, Nov. 15, 2022.
In the first of two segments with Pence, after several questions about the breaking news from Ukraine, the subject turned to presidential politics:
BRET BAIER: All right, your former boss, by all accounts, is going to get back into the presidential field. He's going to announce that he wants to seek the Republican nomination for a third time.
What do you make of that tonight?
PENCE: Well, it's a free country, Bret, and I — the president's entitled to make whatever announcement that he wants to make tonight.
But, as I wrote in my book that was just released today, I'm incredibly proud of the record of the Trump-Pence administration. ... But ... as I have traveled around the country over the last two years, what I hear again and again, Bret, is that people want to see us return to the policies of the Trump-Pence administration, but I — I hear people saying that they would like us to move forward with leadership that will unite our country around our highest ideals and reflect the kind of respect and civility that the American people demonstrate to each other every day. ...
I think it's time that we had leadership in this country that reflected that commitment to respect for every American, while at the same time continuing to fight for all the policies that I chronicle in that book, the successes of the Trump-Pence administration, of which I will always be proud.
BAIER: So, just listening to you, you wouldn't vote for him?
PENCE: Well, I just — I honestly believe that we're going to have better choices, Bret.
Back in the day in the news business, that would be called the money quote.
As the interview continued, Pence expanded on his view of Trump and 2024.
PENCE: I think Donald Trump was the only candidate in 2016 who could have defeated Hillary Clinton. I saw that firsthand. And then, after he won that Indiana primary, I never doubted that he was going to win. And I chronicle that in my book.
BAIER: But you doubt it now?
PENCE: But I think — I think different times call for different leadership.
Ouch. In his Fox News interview, Pence is clearly trying to ride the wave of the perception that the prospects for an alternative to Trump among the deep bench of Republican possibilities were enhanced last week with the underwhelming performance of many candidates on the right in the midterm elections. Despite the fact that Republicans, as of this writing, appear poised to take the House by the slimmest of majorities, the predictions for a significant "red wave" did not come to pass, and many analysts on both the left and the right are attributing the Grand Old Party's less than stellar showing to the influence of Donald Trump. It was Trump who personally inspired and endorsed a number of high-profile candidates (including Kari Lake, Mehmet Oz, and Adam Laxalt) who ultimately under-performed or went down to defeat. And while many other factors were clearly at play in the disappointing outcome of the midterms, talking heads on both the left and the right are trying to saddle Donald Trump with sole responsibility for the letdown that many conservatives feel one week after the 2022 elections.
Mike Pence on Fox News Channel's Special Report, Nov. 15, 2022.
After a commercial break, Pence replied to Bret Baier's question about the midterms.
PENCE: I think there was a common denominator in these elections, that candidates that were focused on the future, focused on the issues the American people were focused on, Bret, which is, namely, inflation at a 40-year high, gasoline prices through the roof, a crime wave, crisis at the border.
Those candidates fared very well, where, by contrast, candidates that were focused on the past, on re-litigating the last election did not fare as well. So, I think, in a very real sense, there's a real affirmation here that the Republican Party going forward needs to be focused on the future. ... The Republican Party needs to be the party of the future. I think the results of these midterm elections confirm that. And I'm confident we're going to continue to — we're going to continue to provide the kind of leadership that will inspire the American people and show them that we have a pathway back to a future of freedom.
As if that wasn't enough of a clue that Mike Pence is strongly considering, if not actively planning, to offer himself as a candidate for president in 2024, he continued on the theme:
BAIER: We are well aware of the video of you being escorted out on January 6, the protesters going in, also the time frame in the afternoon when Donald — then-President Trump tweeted: "Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our Constitution."
When you saw that tweet, this is how this administration ended, understanding that you write about great things in the administration. But that changed the dynamic for you with the former president and the relationship going forward.
PENCE: You know, Bret, I was always loyal to President Donald Trump. He was my president and he was my friend.
Whenever we had disagreements, I would raise them with the president in private, but, on that tragic day, things had to be different, for my greatest loyalty is to God and to the Constitution. I'd taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
And I was determined to keep my oath, as the Bible says, even when it hurts, and — but, in that moment, I must tell you that, when that tweet came across, it angered me. But I really didn't have time for it. I mean, the president had, in that moment, decided to be a part of the problem.
I was determined to be a part of the solution. And we went to work from that moment forward with Republican and Democratic leaders of the Congress to support law enforcement efforts, to — and to call forth additional federal personnel.
And because of the courage of the Capitol Police and the courage of federal law enforcement, we quelled the violence, and we reconvened the Congress on the very same day. And I truly believe that what began as a day of tragedy became a triumph of freedom, when we completed our duty to see to the peaceful transfer of power under the Constitution and the laws of this country.
BAIER: You called his words and his actions that day reckless.
What do you say Republicans who are looking towards 9:00 p.m. Eastern time tonight and wondering what this is all going to look like, that the former president still has a lot of power in your party, and they fear, The Wall Street Journal even wrote, will the GOP nominate the man Democrats know they can beat?
What do you say to them tonight, as this announcement is going to be made? You say there will be better choices. Are you one of the better choices?
PENCE: Well, my family will take some time over the holidays to meet and reflect and give prayerful consideration to that question.
But I must tell you, I have great confidence in Republican primary voters. As I said, I — no one could have beaten Hillary Clinton except Donald Trump in 2016. Our primary voters knew that we needed someone who could take on that decades-old Clinton machine and win a presidency that could advance Republican principles for a strong national defense, free market economics, and conservatives on our courts, standing tall in the world, standing with our allies, standing up to our enemies.
But I believe these are different times in which we live today. And I — I'm very confident, whatever the announcement is tonight, whatever other announcements are, whatever my little family decides in the months and weeks ahead, that Republican primary voters are going to choose well. They're going to choose that man or woman that is fitted to the moment, because the challenges our country faces are like none in my lifetime.
And there you have it: after months of largely being out of the limelight, an articulation by Mike Pence of Indiana of an approach and some of the key themes that he will use in his forthcoming campaign for president. This is how he plans to distinguish himself not only from another candidacy by Donald Trump, but from the candidacies of a potentially large number of other contenders. All that remains, after Mike Pence's current book tour helps to establish his memoir on the bestseller lists, is his formal declaration of candidacy, most like early in the new year.
The complete Mike Pence interview with Bret Baier on Fox News yesterday can be viewed at the links below.
Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who has covered national politics, the politics and economics of health care, popular culture, and media for over five decades. His web page with links to his work is http://peter.media. Peter's extensive American Thinker archive: http://tinyurl.com/pcathinker. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pchowka.
Image: Michael Vadon via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.