Mike Pence has filed to run for president in 2024, officially setting up a showdown between the Republican Party’s most recent president and vice president as he and former President Trump seek the GOP nomination.
Pence, who had telegraphed for months that he would likely enter the race, will have to overcome Trump’s strength with the Republican primary electorate and convince voters he is a better choice than the man he spent four years cheerleading before their relationship fractured after the 2020 election.
The former vice president is slated to launch his campaign Wednesday with an event in Iowa, which will be followed that evening by a CNN town hall in Des Moines.
Pence joins a growing field of candidates but enters the race with some of the strongest name recognition of any Republican after serving as vice president in the Trump administration for four years. He previously served as a congressman and as governor of Indiana, and his team believes his lengthy conservative track record will resonate with voters focused on the issues.
He is backed by a super PAC, Committed to America, which launched in mid-May and is co-chaired by former Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and veteran GOP consultant Scott Reed. The group’s executive director is Bobby Saparow, who managed Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) successful reelection campaign in 2022.
Pence is consistently polling behind Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in national surveys of Republican primary voters, and in some cases he is behind former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who jumped into the race in February.
A CNN poll released in late May found Pence was the first choice of 6 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning primary voters, trailing Trump, who was the first choice of 53 percent of voters, and DeSantis (R), who was the first choice of 26 percent.
The poll also found 54 percent of those surveyed said they support or would consider supporting Pence.
In speeches, Pence has tried to fuse a forward-looking vision for the Republican Party with his credentials as Trump’s right-hand man for four years.
Pence has spent the last several months making frequent trips to early primary states like South Carolina and New Hampshire, and he has put a particular focus on Iowa, which holds the first caucus on the GOP primary calendar.
The former vice president and his team are banking heavily on a strong showing in the Hawkeye State to boost Pence’s chances. Pence is well known in Iowa, having visited the state roughly a dozen times in the past year, including as recently as Saturday when he attended Sen. Joni Ernst’s (R-Iowa) “Roast and Ride” event.
Pence has built strong relationships over the years with evangelical voters, speaking frequently about his faith and issues that resonate with that bloc such as abortion, school choice and religious freedom.
The former vice president has also been willing to stake out clear positions on controversial issues that other candidates have largely shied away from.
Pence has made clear he supports states passing more restrictive laws that limit abortion access, and he has said he believes mifepristone, a pill most commonly used for abortion that is the subject of a court battle, should be taken off the market. He has also said he would support legislation at the federal level that would ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Other candidates, most notably Trump and Haley, have yet to lay out whether they support some kind of federal abortion ban.
Pence has also been willing to break with others in the party on the issue of entitlements, arguing Social Security and Medicare require “common sense reforms” so that they remain solvent and accessible for future generations.
The vice president’s rhetoric on the issue breaks sharply with Trump in particular, who has called on Republicans to leave Social Security and Medicare untouched in budget talks.
And Pence has been an outspoken advocate for U.S. support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia at a time when Trump, DeSantis and others in the party have suggested it is not in America’s interest to provide aid to the Ukrainians.
Ultimately, though, Pence’s biggest challenges as a candidate will likely be whether he can garner enough support among primary voters who often seem more fixated on personality as opposed to policy, and whether he he can peel off support from the wing of the party that remains loyal to Trump.
Many of the most hardened Trump supporters are unlikely to back Pence after he certified the 2020 election results on Jan. 6, 2021. Video of the attack on the Capitol that day showed some rioters chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” and Trump said at the time that Pence did not have the “courage” to act.
Pence has called Jan. 6 a “dark day,” expressed frustration that Trump’s rhetoric endangered his family, and repeatedly asserted that the vice president did not have the constitutional right to single-handedly overturn the election result as Trump had claimed. Pence testified in late April before a grand jury examining Trump’s attempts to remain in power.
Trump and Pence have not spoken in roughly two years.
“Pence pushed an extreme agenda in Congress and the Indiana statehouse before becoming Donald Trump’s MAGA wingman for four years and then campaigning for election deniers last year,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison said in a statement. “Now he’s promising to take the Trump-Pence agenda even further, leading the charge for a national abortion ban, cutting Medicare, and ending Social Security as we know it.”