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Mike Pence Has a Donald Trump Problem He Can’t Shake

Trump 2024
President of the United States Donald Trump speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo by Gage Skidmore .

One of the odder relationships in national politics exists between former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence.

The two men served together of course, after Trump selected Pence to join the 2016 GOP ticket. And the relationship remained harmonious (at least outwardly) throughout Trump’s first term.

In fact, Pence was a sycophantic lackey of the president. But the relationship has famously soured – ever since Pence finally asserted himself and refused to back Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election had been stolen.

But Pence is still struggling to establish an identity of his own, independent of his former boss.

Pence Breaks from Trump

During Trump’s first term, Pence served as a loyal defender of the controversial president.

Pence’s defense of Trump was odd at times. For Pence was always so disciplined and sober, so outwardly adherent to Christian principles, whereas Trump was bombast and absurd, taking pot shots whenever the opportunity presented itself, adherent to his own demagoguery above all else.

The contrast between the two men was so stark that Pence’s constant insistence that Trump was in the right, was the best answer for our country, sometimes seemed insincere, like it was personally painful for Pence, yet politically expedient.

As Adam Wren wrote for POLITICO, “the core of Pence’s identity has always been loyalty – to his friends, his wife, his faith, his party, his country.” But Pence isn’t gritting his teeth and defending his old boss anymore, not for the sake of political loyalty. Because “then came the day [Pence] had to choose between his boss – the leader of the party – and the Constitution.”

Wren is referring to January 6th, when Trump pressured Pence not to honor the results of the 2020 election. Pence prioritized the Constitution over Trump – refusing to throw out Electoral College votes – and has been dealing with the fallout ever since.

The fallout included a weird middle ground. Pence is persona non grata in MAGA world, for his disobedience to Trump and The Cause.

But mainstream Republicans haven’t fully embraced Pence either, for Pence still spent four years as Trump’s loyal lackey; Pence still reeks of Trump. Pence didn’t help matters during the past midterm elections when he campaigned for MAGA candidates.

Mike Pence setting himself up for 2024 run

Pence has been working to carve out a niche for himself sufficient to be a viable presidential contender.

Pence’s support of MAGA candidates during the midterms was a bid to appeal to the MAGA base whom Pence views as vital to his election efforts. But Pence is trying to walk a fine line, simultaneously divorcing himself from Trump and earning more mainstream support.

“I honestly believe that we’re going to have better choices [than Donald Trump],” Pence said recently. “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.”

There it is, confirming what we’ve all figured since 2016: Trump’s lack of decorum, his bombast, is offensive to Mike Pence, the rigidly conservative Christian.

As Wren reported, Mike Pence is “struggling to demonstrate where his loyalties really lie – to the former president whose White House record he proudly touts as a shared legacy, or to a wing of the party that is debating whether to unshackle itself from a conspiracy-laden cult of personality.”

To me, Pence’s equivocation undermines his credibility. It’s all nakedly apparent political calculus. Where’s the principle, man?

Mike Pence is supposed to be an unflappable soldier of faith, but he’s conflicted over which branch of the party to market himself towards. Pence will need to pick a path and walk it with some gumption if he wants to compete in the upcoming GOP field.

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Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive.

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense 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 has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.