He was still there, the trusty vice president, standing right next to Donald Trump. Mike Pence, like an Oval Office decoration, was always there, nodding and then adding profuse praise for anything the president did or said.
They no longer stood together as they both returned to Washington. They spoke at separate sites a mile apart. Each wants to be back in the Oval Office, each planning to seek the 2024 Republican nomination for president.
Once upon a time, they needed each other. No more.
Trump needed Pence as his running mate in 2016. The former Indiana governor, a devout Christian, offered a connection to evangelicals, a group initially and understandably skeptical of Trump. Pence also assured conservative Republicans that Trump would be committed to their philosophy and government goals.
Pence needed Trump. Pence had left Congress to run for governor, seeing it as a stepping stone to his goal, the presidency. But his popularity as governor waned, preventing him from seeking the 2016 presidential nomination and even threatening his chances of re-election as governor. A key poll showed his approval rating in Indiana at just 40%.
The 2016 election went well for both.
Trump, with Pence there to help him weather the revelations about his playboy history, won the necessary support from evangelicals and conservatives in the party and won the presidency.
Pence, instead of being pushed aside as a future presidential candidate by a loss or a close call in the Indiana gubernatorial race, was elected vice president, an even better springboard for the president.
Trump also needed Pence and those signs of approval during his presidency. That Pence, a true conservative, was there as a symbol of stability was reassuring to congressional Republicans as they sought to work with an erratic president on Supreme Court confirmations, a GOP tax bill and their budget goals. .
Then came the January 6 insurrection in the Capitol.
Trump, in his plan to overturn the presidential election results and cling to power, needed Pence to reject state certification of the results. But Pence, so loyal for so long, even when the president’s bizarre behavior was undoubtedly troubling, found the demand to rule the presidency unconstitutionally an order he could not follow.
Pence then needed Trump to call out the Capitol rioters who were threatening his vice president’s life, chanting “Hang Mike Pence.” Pence fled the Senate Chamber, dodging nearby rioters and reaching a secure underground hideout. But Trump wouldn’t call the rioters, call the National Guard, or even call Pence to check on his security.
Now they no longer need each other.
They separate, with different messages.
In their speeches in Washington, Trump spoke angrily about the past, still insisting he was in fact re-elected in 2020, while Pence, in his usual more low-key approach, spoke about the future, with only a passing reference to January 6 as a “tragic day”.
Trump, portraying himself as the most persecuted person in history, is clearly seeking revenge for his 2020 defeat as the focal point of his planned 2024 campaign.
Says Pence, by contrast: “Some people may choose to focus on the past, but elections are about the future.”
Press accounts of their rival Washington events say that Pence received friendly but unenthusiastic applause from about 250 mostly college-age attendees at a Young America’s Foundation event, while Trump received standing ovations from a crowd of about 800 staunch supporters during an Americas First policy. Institute Gathering. This group is engaged in planning for a new Trump administration.
Thus, they are no longer united. They are going separate ways to seek the Republican nomination, with Trump now the frontrunner and Pence the long shot. They also travel on their paths to their very different places in history.
Jack Colwell is a columnist for The Tribune. Write to him in care of The Tribune or by email at [email protected]