Pence returns from the dead GOP

Since POLITICO reported on the Supreme Court’s draft opinion quashing Roe vs. Wade, Pence moved to channel a newly sympathetic GOP base. He finds deliberate ways to contrast Trump on issues ranging from highlighting his own record of decades of anti-abortion advocacy to calling for a heavy-handed response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Next week, he will cross paths with Trump hosting a rally with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on the eve of his GOP primary, a direct challenge to Trump’s endorsement of Kemp’s challenger David Perdue.

And he embraced familiar ground on the culture wars, launching his own so-called freedom program before midterms, focusing on issues like parental choice in the classroom. Long before Republicans like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis waged war on Disney, Pence was attacking the entertainment company as early as 1999 in an op-ed criticizing the movie “Mulan.”

“The problem seems to come to him a bit because he’s good at culture warfare,” said David Kochel, a veteran Republican strategist from Iowa who said he heard positive reviews of Pence’s April visit to the United States. ‘State.

“As we address the question of the sanctity of life and the potential to have Deer. c. Wade knocked down, he was a champion of life,” said Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The Family Leader, a conservative Christian parenting organization at the Iowa Family Policy Center. “It’s definitely in his comfort zone. If that becomes a big problem, a defining problem as far as 2024 is concerned, it will be in its wheelhouse.

Now, after warmly welcomed appearances in the first GOP presidential primary voting states of South Carolina and Iowa, and ahead of scheduled stops in New Hampshire and North Carolina later this month, Pence is regaining political terrain. The booing crowds were replaced by cheering, bloated audiences of social conservatives.

“Pence is doing everything he can to position himself if there’s an opening in 2024,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and former adviser to the presidential campaigns of Marco Rubio in 2016 and Tim Pawlenty in 2012.

Pence’s pending campaign is perhaps the strongest test of whether Trump’s appeal with his base is purely personality or politics, all about identity or all about ideas as well. If the former, Pence’s raise is likely doomed. If the latter, Pence’s loyalty to Trump’s record and his decades of toiling in the trenches of the culture wars could pay off. No GOPer 2024, after all, comes closer to Trump’s accomplishments during his tenure.

Pence executed this high-profile political comeback against the backdrop of presidential-style photo ops at the Ukrainian border and a stop at a mobile pregnancy ultrasound unit in crisis last week. He undertook quiet moments that are more the responsibility of a head of state. He spoke at the Indiana funeral of one of the Marines killed during the exit from Afghanistan last year, Cpl. Humbert Sanchez. And while he was fundraising in Omaha for Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), he visited the family of Cpl. Daegan Page.

By the end of the month, Pence will have visited the early primary states of Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire at least three times each since leaving. Last month, he sold out and featured at a Story County Republican Party fundraiser on an Iowa swing.

“He’s 100% pro-life and people love everything he’s done under the Trump administration,” the freshman Iowa representative said. Randy Feenstra, a key pre-2024 caucus broker who joined Pence in serving breakfast at Iowa’s 4th District Convention in late April. “I mean, the tax cuts, the Supreme Court justices, it really bodes well for him.”

Pence also pays particular attention to South Carolina, the first “Southern Premier” presidential state filled with his brand of rock-shore social conservatives. His first post-vice presidential event was at the Palmetto Family Council, the Colombia-based conservative nonprofit. Last year, he enlisted state senator Josh Kimbrell of dark red Spartanburg County to help him navigate state politics.

“He’s creating a wave of grassroots support here,” said Kimbrell, a former Christian radio host. “He did a great job with that. He did a really good job of connecting with what I would say is the bread and butter of the Republican primary electorate – hitting the right towns, attending the right events, meeting the right kind of voters he would need to succeed if and when he decides to run for president.

At a fundraising gala for the Carolina Pregnancy Center in Spartanburg last week, he drew a crowd of around 2,000. In his remarks, he took issue with Vice President Kamala Harris, herself a potential 2024 presidential candidate if President Joe Biden does not run for re-election.

“How dare you?” Pence said, responding to Harris’ similar refrain directed at GOP lawmakers who want to restrict abortion rights in a speech to EMILY’s List, the abortion rights political action committee. It was his third trip to the state since leaving office. Pence’s southern swing even earned a pre-verification from Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison.

“It’s not enough to go to Iowa and South Carolina and those places,” said an adviser to Pence. “You have to leave an impression. I think that’s what we do.

Alexia Newman, a Spartanburg GOP committee member and director of the Carolina Pregnancy Center, said Pence received a rock star reception.

“People were thrilled to see him because he’s so respected, and he just embodies the values ​​of South Carolina — of faith and family,” Newman said.

While Trump’s response to the draft abortion advisory has been muted, Pence took up the issue during his visit to South Carolina. Last July, Advancing American Freedom — its 2024 campaign pending boutique — filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. And though he has never fully explained whether he supports a total ban on abortion with no exceptions, banning abortion has been the heart-cry of his political life.

“Having been involved in the cause of the right to life for my entire adult life, politics is the least of my concerns, that we have a historic opportunity to restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law, and I welcome that,” Pence told a group of local and national reporters at a rare press conference. He often favors more controlled interviews with friendly outlets.

Pence, who weighed in on presidential campaigns in 2012 and 2016, is planning his moves with an inner circle that includes former chief of staff Marc Short, former press secretary Devin O’Malley and longtime political adviser Marty Obst. . Chip Saltsman, senior adviser to Advancing American Freedom and former campaign manager for Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential bid, guides Pence’s path in Iowa, New Hampshire and other states.

Pence has headlined or plans to host fundraisers for more than a dozen candidates in pivotal races in key states. On May 24, he will participate in a fundraiser for the North Carolina GOP. Two days later, he will be back in New Hampshire for an event with the Federation of Republican Women. Earlier this year, he made a $10 million ad buy in 11 states targeting vulnerable Democrats on energy prices through Advancing American Freedom.

Back home in Indiana and newly wealthy for the first time, Pence is living his best life after signing a seven-figure two-pound deal and arranging a speaking fee. He resides in a seven-bedroom, $1.9 million mansion in Tony Carmel, a northern suburb of Indianapolis. There he munch on his autobiography – the first volume of which is due to be published by Simon & Schuster in 2023 – and relish his family ritual of pizza and O’Doul’s on Friday nights.

Farther from home, Pence’s path to a potential 2024 GOP primary is still rocky and marked with potential obstacles. A March Morning Consult poll of 2024 GOP candidates found Pence had just 10% support, behind Trump – 54% – and DeSantis – 14%. Even given his focus on South Carolina, he faces other potential candidates who are even more entrenched there — favorite son-and-daughter candidates including former ambassador and governor Nikki Haley and the senator. Tim Scott — and DeSantis, who is making inroads there with fundraisers.

“Pence has more strengths and more vulnerabilities than almost any other potential candidate,” said Conant, the Republican strategist. “A great identity, knowledge of donors and experience are its undeniable assets. Its vulnerability is that it has no clear basis. And her relationship with President Trump is a big unknown.

Trump agrees. Last week, he told CBN that “if Mike comes in [to the 2024 primary]I think it would be difficult for him.

But what seemed like an impossibility a year ago — Pence as a strong contender before 2024 — is now entirely possible. He rose from the political dead.

“He clearly left administration with his stock very low,” Conant said of Pence. “But he is executing a methodical strategy to position himself better. Pence is a strategy and Trump is an instinct.

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