Mike Pence: I'm giving "prayerful consideration" to running for president in 2024.
Donald Trump: I'm making a yuge announcement on Tuesday [that's almost certainly another run for the White House]!
The battery-mates of the most recent GOP executive branch were once MAGA's yin and yang-Pence the pious midwestern governor, Trump the vulgarian culture warrior-able to both own the libs and reassure the evangelicals that God was on their side.
But after losing the 2018 midterms, losing the 2020 election (and the Senate with it), and essentially losing the 2022 midterms (even if the GOP ekes out a tiny majority in the House, it's a stinging defeat)-Trump is damaged goods in the Republican Party.
Donald Trump's Enablers Finally Realize He's a Loser Who Hurts the GOP
As my colleague Matt Lewis noted, Trump's long-slavish sycophants rode the Trump train through his despicable racism and xenophobia, his flagrant corruption and abuses of power, and even his attempt to overturn a free and fair election through strong-arming state officials. The conservative commentariat (and the go-along-to-get-along Republicans) didn't break even from him after he incited the assault on the U.S. Capitol. In fact, if any Republican suffered politically from Jan. 6, it was former Vice President Pence.
By not acquiescing to the boss' demand that he refuse to certify the election, Pence became the primary target of the mouth-frothing mob on Jan. 6. And he's been exiled from the MAGA family ever since.
Making the rounds to promote his new autobiography, So Help Me God, Pence told ABC News' David Muir that Trump was "reckless" to tweet to his followers that the vice president "didn't have the courage to do what should have been done." Pence countered that he, in fact, showed courage by not breaking the law, and added, "The president's words that day at the rally endangered me and my family and everyone at the Capitol building."
The ex-veep wouldn't commit one way or the other on his own potential presidential aspirations, but he did offer that he thinks "we'll have better choices in the future" than Trump. That's probably true, just as it's likely the case that GOP primary voters will think they have better choices than Pence, too.
Once the obvious MAGA heir apparent, thanks to his lap dog loyalty throughout Trump's presidency-all the way up to the moment he refused to aid and abet his coup attempt on Jan. 6-Pence is no longer the de facto Trump alternative. Most national polling shows him in single digits and a very distant third to Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis among likely 2024 Republican primary voters.
Pence is paying the price for jumping off the Trump train in 2021, even as other conservatives are doing so today-for far less admirable reasons.
After many of Trump's hand-selected MAGA goofballs lost otherwise winnable elections thanks to their general incompetence and blind fealty to the Big Lie-and voters across the country made it clear they did not approve of the 6-3 conservative-leaning Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, and would not abide new state-level bans on abortions (even in deep red Kentucky!)-conservatives are finally coming around to the fact people just don't like Donald Trump.
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Republicans are also accepting that 2016 might very well have been an electoral college fluke, and that Trump is an albatross on the party's electoral ambitions-he brings along far more losing than winning.
Once DeSantis wiped the floor with Charlie Crist on election night, the anointing oils began to flow on the Florida governor as the GOP's new savior. Ever the jealous teenage boyfriend, Trump repeatedly lashed out at DeSantis, leading some of his most deranged defenders to finally question their loyalty to Trump-and Trump's loyalty to the GOP.
As politically damaged as he's ever been, under federal investigation for pilfering highly classified government documents, and imperiled by a lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James that could cripple his Trump Organization-Trump has decided now is the time to make a "big announcement," which just about everyone expects to be the official kickoff to his 2024 campaign.
It's quite possible Trump would launch his run at this absurdly early date to cloak himself under the protection of "political candidate"-meaning he can spin all of the legal jeopardy he now faces as obviously just a political witch hunt against him. If that's the case, he must be sweating bullets about the investigations, because the RNC has already told him it will stop footing his legal bills should he officially announce his candidacy.
Another impetus for a possible Trump launch tonight is that he simply can't stand the spotlight being directed elsewhere. It's a risky move, as making himself a candidate now means there's nowhere for him to go but down, and the knives of potential GOP rivals have extra time to be sharpened.
The conservative, anti-tax group Club for Growth just released some fresh polling numbers, first published in Politico, that can only be described as brutal for Trump's 2024 chances. In the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, DeSantis leads Trump by double digits. In the crucial states of Florida and Georgia, DeSantis has at least a 20 point advantage over the ex-president.
Pushing Total Bullshit Misinformation Is Not 'Healthy Skepticism' of the Powerful
We would obviously be fools to see Trump as knocked-out until the referee counts to 10-and even then, as we've seen, he'll likely refuse to accept the result. Moreover, according to Morning Consult's recent poll roundup, Trump still has a lead (even if it's shrinking) over DeSantis, nationally.
There's plenty of time for Trump to reestablish himself as the Daddy of the MAGA base by ginning up some new culture war bugaboo. There is more than a full year before the first ballots are cast, which is plenty of time for a heretofore unknown charismatic conservative to enter the scene. And DeSantis can ask Chris Christie what it's like to be touted as a GOP presidential frontrunner-only to have the complications of your day job as governor torpedo your quest for higher office.
It's Not a 'Hoax'-Trump's 'Very Fine People' in Charlottesville Did Not Exist
For poor Mike Pence, well, the road to the nomination looks even less likely.
If Pence was hoping his book tour would inspire "Run, Mike, Run!" chants from the MAGA flock, he must truly have put his faith in the mysterious ways of a higher power. Trumpists consider Pence a traitor, and he's never developed anything close to the following DeSantis has already cultivated of fawning right-wingers touting him as the slayer of all things woke. Maybe he'll settle for vice president, again.
As for Trump, it hasn't even been a full week since his party got schlonged in the midterms, thanks in large part to his pathetic refusal to accept defeat in 2020 and his inability to pass along his one-time winning ways to a host of unqualified (and often ridiculous) candidates.
If Pence and Trump were hoping this Tuesday was the beginning of a hugely popular nostalgia tour, they're in for a disappointment. There's little demand for their comebacks right now.
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