One of the biggest advantages to being a sane American voter who doesn’t worship politicians is that it is easy to move on when one (almost) inevitably disappoints me. Yes, it’s best to expect to be disappointed by politicians. Some, however, are more disappointing than others, like former Vice President Mike Pence.
I met Pence back in 2010 when he was in Congress. We were at a conservative conference, and I interviewed him for the now-defunct PJTV. Pence was gracious and — at the time — well liked among conservative activists.
My Republican friends in Indiana seemed to like him during his one term as governor there, so when Trump tapped him as his running mate in 2016, I thought, “Yeah, I get it.” Trump was making a more serious play for all of the Midwest than any Republican presidential candidate had in a very long time and Pence was a good fit. His tenure as Trump’s VEEP was just fine. I know that the Escalator MAGAs think he’s Satan for not overturning the 2020 election results on January 6, 2021. I’ve never really been able to jump on that emo train.
I’m not given to raising my eyebrows — I’m not even sure I can — when surprised by something, but I wanted to when Pence announced that he was running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
My first thought whenever a longshot candidate enters a presidential race is, “Who does he or she think his or her constituency is?” Most people think that the outliers run merely to position themselves for cabinet positions, to sell books, or to plant the seeds for a future run. There is some truth in all of that, but we must remember that politicians have disproportionate egos. A lot of candidates who we know don’t have a chance truly believe that they can be a triumphant dark horse.
It’s a weird question to have to ask of a candidate who was one heartbeat away from the presidency less than four years ago. The most recent former vice president should have someone beyond his dining room table who wants to vote for him, shouldn’t he?
That’s not really the case with Pence. Of all of the candidates who thought they could grab a big share of the anti-Trump Republicans, I think Pence was the worst at reading the room. He occupies an unusual space: he’s vilified by the Trump faithful yet excoriated by many in the mainstream media for having been associated with Trump at all. And he certainly can’t position himself as an outsider, which is often the selling point of longshot candidates.
Pence also overestimated his national appeal. Yes, he is a very successful politician, and well known in the Midwest; he didn’t have any real national exposure until Trump gave it to him though. Joe and Helen Regular Republican outside of the Midwest didn’t know who the hell Mike Pence was until August of 2016. I pay attention to politics all day and I’m not sure who the governor of Indiana is at the moment.
Where Pence really swings and misses is in reading the overall mood of the Republican electorate, which is angry. Milquetoast Mike doesn’t grasp that most GOP voters are livid about what’s going on under Biden and just disagree on who would be best to deal with it.
There are numerous examples of this from Pence, but none so horribly off as his public response to the attacks on Israel by Hamas. This tweet is from a post my RedState colleague Nick Arama wrote:
This is what happens when we have leading voices like Donald Trump, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Ron DeSantis signaling retreat from America’s role as leader of the free world. When I’m President of the United States, we’ll lead from American Strength. pic.twitter.com/gW3HaN4fIp
— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) October 8, 2023
His segue from rightfully assigning blame to Joe Biden to trying to score political points against his primary opponents (all of whom he trails in the polls) is clumsy, brain-dead, and obviously scripted. Delivered in that “just woke up from a nap” monotone of his, he sounds like a high school principal droning on at an assembly that none of the students want to be at. That he’s saying it on CNN compounds the stupidity of the moment.
Mike Pence doesn’t know that his “sell by” date has long passed. He feels like a relic from decades ago, even though he was just in office four years ago at this time. Thankfully, Republican voters are going to make it clear to Pence that his services are no longer needed and that he will never be anywhere near the presidency again.
After his moronic, somnambulant response to the horror in Israel, I’ve never been more glad of that.