Former Vice President Mike Pence launched a new political advocacy group on Wednesday, a move that could likely be his latest sign of building a presidential campaign for 2024.
The group, titled Advancing American Freedom, will aim to promote the Trump administration’s policies and achievements that “created unprecedented prosperity at home” and reject President Joe Biden’s “policy agenda that would threaten America’s freedoms,” according to a statement from the group.
Pence, who has been widely considered as a top presidential contender for the 2024 election, has been quiet since he and former President Donald Trump left the White House in January.
“A group like this would help to keep Pence’s name in the mix as a possible contender for 2024. Even famous people will fade from public awareness if they aren’t in the news on a regular basis. That’s particularly true when you are thinking about the next presidential election, which is never that far away,” Timothy M. Hagle, an associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa, said.
An aide close to the former vice president told the Associated Press that the group will focus on several issues, but it will likely pivot its immediate efforts, including direct mail and media appearances, on the surge of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border and the Biden administration’s proposed tax hikes on corporations.
The group’s unpaid advisory board reportedly includes a wide range of conservative leaders like former counselor Kellyanne Conway, economic adviser Larry Ludlow and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, all of whom are former Trump administration officials. The board will also feature anti-abortion rights advocate Marjorie Dannenfelser and Ed Meese, who served as President Ronald Reagan’s attorney general.
Although Pence remained hushed as the Trump administration left Washington, D.C., the former vice president has been slowly getting politically active, as he is expected to make his first public speech in the early primary state of South Carolina this month.
He also recently wrote an op-ed for The Daily Signal that sounded the alarm over “the integrity of the 2020 election,” though, there was no evidence of voter fraud that would have impacted the election results. But this initiative is different from Pence’s approach when Trump was still president, as the former vice president never publicly rejected Trump’s claim of a “stolen” election. Instead, Pence didn’t address the matter and resorted to maintaining a low profile.
While Pence didn’t explicitly claim there was voter fraud in the 2020 election in his op-ed piece, his raised concerns about the alleged “significant” and “troubling” voting irregularities largely contrasts with his decision to stay quiet when the claims first surfaced.
But Hagle noted that Pence’s heightened concern over the integrity of last year’s election results isn’t “necessarily a change of opinion.”
“Even at the time, there was recognition that there were some problems in the vote counts. The general conclusion was that the irregularities weren’t widespread enough to have changed the outcome on behalf of Biden in the relevant states. Even so, that doesn’t mean one couldn’t be concerned about the problems that did exist. Many of these problems are somewhat common, but are often not given much attention unless a particular race is close,” he said.
Pence’s move, however, to start a group that embraces Trump’s legacy and accomplishments while in office is likely to sit well with the former president’s supporters and the Republican Party as a whole.
“Pence also has a particular problem in that, as an important part of the Trump administration, a lot of people will automatically dismiss him or want to distance themselves from him. Trump’s displeasure with Pence’s inability to act in January also made Pence the object of scorn for many hardcore Trump supporters. The latter would be more important in a nomination race, so forming a group like this could help to get him back into the good graces of many who will be voting for the next Republican nominee,” Hagle said.
Trump blasted Pence’s decision to uphold his constitutional duty and certify the electoral vote. Trump and his close allies tried to push the former vice president to reject the vote based on baseless claims of voter fraud, but Pence firmly denied the request and proceeded with his authority over the Senate at the time—a job that was abruptly disrupted by dangerous protestors.
Trump supporters who raided the Capitol building actually shouted “hang Mike Pence” at one point due to his refusal to overturn the election results.
“More generally, this [Pence’s new political group] could help to show the positive aspects of the Trump administration’s policies without the disdain that many felt for Trump himself clouding the perception,” Hagle said.
The former president referred to Pence’s newly formed group in a statement to The Washington Examiner, saying, “Nice to see Mike highlighting some of our many achievements!”
But even if Pence has political ambitions to pursue the White House in 2024, he will likely face a tough presidential primary, as nearly a dozen GOP lawmakers have been speculated to run, including Trump. And if the former president does run for a third time, his campaign could clear the presidential playing field since he still maintains an iron-like grip over the GOP.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.