It doesn’t seem like anyone wants Mike Pence to be president: The former vice president is acting as if he might jump into the presidential race, but focus groups show he’s not particularly popular in either party.
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Mike Pence Has a Problem
It’s not especially rare for former vice presidents to seek the presidency.
President Biden, after all, was vice president for eight years.
In the last half-century, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and George Bush were former presidents who ascended to the presidency, while Al Gore, Walter Mondale, and Dan Quayle all ran for president.
So normally, it wouldn’t be all that strange for a recent former vice president like Mike Pence to make a run for the White House.
Of course, this isn’t a normal circumstance.
Pence, if he runs in 2024, Pence would be taking the rare step of running for president against the former president he served- and the even rarer step of facing the man with whom he refused to go along with a plot to overturn the election.
Pence hasn’t announced that he’s running, but judging by his recent travel and frequent TV appearances, he is seriously considering throwing his hat in the ring for 2024. The problem is, it doesn’t appear Republican opponents are interested in Pence’s candidacy.
The Atlantic this week wrote about recent focus groups, in which participants were “brutal” in their assessment of the former vice president. And while most polls of the Republican field have Pence in the high single digits, which is usually good for third or fourth place, it doesn’t sound like the party faithful is enthused with him running.
Reporter McKay Coppins sat in on some of those focus groups, all over the country, which consisted of Republican voters who supported Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020.
Sure, some voters said they’re still upset with Pence for not refusing to certify the Electoral College’s votes on January 6, 2021, something that Pence said at the time that he was legally forbidden from doing. After all, Trump has created a rare dynamic in which his base demands that other Republicans be loyal to him- even the people who are expected to run against him for president.
But that’s not the only reason for Republican voter skepticism about his candidacy.
“I don’t care for him … He’s just middle-of-the-road to me. If there was someone halfway better, I wouldn’t vote for him,” one voter said.
“He has alienated every Republican and Democrat … It’s over. It’s retirement time,” another said.
“I’m so mad at Pence that I would never vote for him,” one voter said, of Pence’s January 6 actions. “He would be a horrible president … I just don’t think he has the leadership qualities to be president.”
Another voter declared that Pence “didn’t have the leadership qualities to do what everyone wanted him to do on January 6. He just doesn’t have that spine.”
Other voters opposed Pence for the opposite reason- after four years in the Trump Administration, he’s too associated with Trump.
“The only thing I liked about him was that he actually did stand up to Donald Trump,” a woman said in one of the focus groups. “He’s too a part of Trump. I don’t think Trump has a chance, and I don’t think anybody in that inner circle has a chance either.”
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Sarah Longwell, the Republican strategist and vocal Trump opponent who led the groups, told The Atlantic that she gets those reactions from every focus group she holds with GOP voters. She did say that her research was paid for by the media outlet The Bulwark and the anti-Trump group the Republican Accountability Project. However, this research has the effect of discrediting a Trump opponent, rather than Trump himself.
Longwell’s explanation for how Pence manages to get nearly 10 percent support in most polls is? She believes it could be name recognition from voters who don’t want Trump again, and know Pence’s name better than others in the race.
Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.