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June 7, 2023

Mike Pence: Good Guy for President

The former vice president is a fundamentally decent man with all the necessary qualifications for the White House.

When a former vice president launches a presidential bid, it’s a big deal. As that man, Mike Pence immediately has name recognition, a high profile, and a résumé that’s a natural fit for the top job.

Besides serving as vice president for four years, he was the governor of Indiana for four, a congressman for 12 (including serving as chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee and then Republican Conference chairman), and a talk-radio host. “No president in at least the last 30 years has come to office with that kind of résumé,” says veteran political analyst Byron York.

Yet there’s no denying Pence faces a tough road to the GOP presidential nomination.

On one side, Pence is persona non grata after refusing to go along with Donald Trump’s plan on January 6. According to Trump and his supporters, Pence had a duty to ensure that Trump, the rightful winner, prevailed in the electoral vote count instead of Joe Biden, who couldn’t possibly have legitimately won all 306 of those electoral votes with 81 million ballots from his Delaware basement. Pence (rightly in our view) declined to unilaterally declare his boss the winner, and Trump’s most devoted supporters won’t forgive him for it. Besides, Trump himself is in the race, and it’s unlikely that Trump’s supporters will defect to Pence even if they don’t hate him.

On the other side, Pence was Trump’s right-hand man for four years. No one was more loyal, and, arguably more than any other figure besides Trump, Pence helped articulate, defend, and enact the (very successful) America First/Make America Great Again agenda. Pence was the indispensable man in the Trump administration and, until January 6, one of the precious few that Trump never publicly disparaged. Even after January 6, Pence proudly defended Trump’s incredible and myriad achievements. Therefore, anyone with the hate-Trump version of Trump Derangement Syndrome also hates Pence.

So who’s left?

A lot of Americans, actually.

Millions of normal folks who get up every day and love their families and go to work without being glued to cable news or Twitter just want a decent human being to be president. We haven’t had one of those in a while.

“Today our party and our country need a leader that will appeal, as Lincoln said, to the better angels of our nature,” Pence said in his video announcement.

Mike Pence is such a decent guy, in fact, that he doesn’t spend time alone with any woman who’s not his wife — to avoid even the appearance of anything wrong. The same media that caterwauls about Trump’s treatment of women mocks and attacks Pence for honoring them.

Years ago, some of Pence’s friends took to calling him Captain America because of his willingness to do the right thing, even if it meant leaping on a live grenade. January 6 was as close to that scenario in politics as we can think of.

Pence is a committed Christian and one of the most culturally conservative candidates in the race, and he’s also a proponent of economic and national security conservatism. He favors a federal ban on abortion after 15 weeks. He recently said, “I couldn’t have been more proud to have been part of the administration that appointed three justices that sent Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs.”

The former veep supports assisting Ukraine against Russia’s invasion. And he wants to reform Social Security and Medicare, calling them “the real driver of our national debt.” That too is a contrast with Trump, whose position Pence says “is identical to Joe Biden’s.”

His record isn’t perfect, though whose is? For example, the editors of National Review note, “Social conservatives were — rightly, in our view — alarmed when Pence, as governor of Indiana, bent to economic pressure and watered down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act he had just signed.” One way or another, that episode will serve as a contrast with, for example, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s battle with Disney, which Pence has criticized as overstepping.

Ultimately, the reality is that Pence may be exactly the kind of man best suited for the White House, but he’s also significantly out of step with today’s Republican primary voters — and that will make it difficult to win the chance to prove it.

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