Aides shrug off questions about 2024, but with a list of advisory board members that reads like backers, former Vice President Mike Pence’s new political group looks like a bid to position himself as Trumpism’s heir apparent and for a White House run.
Advancing American Freedom’s advisory board includes Trump administration alumni such as Kellyanne Conway, former Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought, and Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer, along with luminaries of the conservative movement such as Jim DeMint and David McIntosh.
“It’s going to promote the policies of the last four years and defend them from attack from the radical left and distortions from the media,” an aide said.
But as possible candidates begin jockeying for the Republican nomination for 2024, it also marks Pence’s return to the political limelight after keeping a low profile since a pro-Trump mob marched through the U.S. Capitol chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”
Pence returns to fray with Trump-backed political group
“It looks like Pence and his tight-knit team think there’s still a path for him to win the Republican nomination in 2024, even just three months after he was targeted by Trump’s supporters in the Jan. 6 attack,” said Tom LoBianco, Pence biographer and reporter with Business Insider.
“The two big questions for Pence are really the same question every other would-be contender faces right now: Will the Republican Party base respond to someone who’s not Trump? And, more pressing, will Trump run again in 2024?.”
Hours after the launch of his political group, publisher Simon & Schuster announced it will publish Pence’s autobiography in 2023 as part of a two-book deal.
So, when Pence makes his next speech later this month, it will be seen as the next step along a choreographed path leading to the 2024 election.
Associates insist there is a long way to go.
Conway, who has worked as a pollster for both Pence and Trump, said the former vice president’s venture was not about the next election. The time was right, she added, to begin organizing against the new administration.
“Some people look at this as a 2024 launching pad. Don’t forget they’ve only been out of office for 70, 80 days,” she said.
“In just a few short months, the Biden-Harris administration is trying to wipe out significant policy gains and the prosperity and opportunity that belong to many Americans — from those who benefited in a reduction in business tax rate, who could invest additional capital in manpower and benefits, to the men and women who relied upon energy jobs, like the Keystone Pipeline, that are now gone, to our brave men and women trying to keep our southern border secure.”
The launch of Advancing American Freedom comes at a hectic time for the Republican Party. Stephen Miller, one of Trump’s key White House policy advisers, on Wednesday, launched America First Legal to challenge Biden administration policies in the courts.
© Provided by Washington Examiner President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate is shown, Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in Palm Beach, Fla. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)
Conversations are certain to include runners and riders for the 2024 nomination and where Pence fits into the permutations if Trump finally decides not to stand.
Central to his chances of capturing the nomination is his relationship to his former boss. Trump publicly dismissed Pence as lacking courage on Jan. 6 when the vice president resisted his plea to overturn the result of the 2020 election — something Pence said was not within his power.
And when Trump recently failed to include the former Indiana governor in his list of potential 2024 candidates, it was taken as a sign that the two had not yet patched up their differences. Instead, Trump name-checked Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem during an interview with conservative commentator Lisa Boothe.
The result was immediate speculation that the slight was deliberate.
However, aides on both sides dismiss talk of a rift. They say the pair have been in regular phone contact since leaving office. And Trump sent the Washington Examiner a statement backing Pence’s latest venture.
“The president realizes there’s nothing the vice president could have done,” said a former administration official, referring to Pence.
That leaves Pence aides quietly pushing their man as the best figure to synthesize a new platform that includes both the populist, free-spending America First policies of Trump, with the small-government, evangelical, libertarian conservatism that first brought him to prominence.
They cite a career immersed in the conservative movement — from starting the Indiana Policy Review to heading the Republican Study Committee.
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