Alp Sevimlisoy Yatırım

ANALYSIS: How the Pence Campaign Aims to Win Nomination, Remake Party

Former Vice President Mike Pence faces a Herculean task.

Winning a major party’s nomination for president is a complex and arduous feat, even for former vice presidents. Despite having held national office and enjoying almost universal name recognition, only six former vice presidents have been elected to the top job directly, without having first gained the office through the death or resignation of the president.

Mr. Pence faces the added challenge of defeating a former president and personal friend who retains broad support within his party and among an army of loyal supporters.

President Donald Trump enjoys a commanding lead in national polls. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is running a distant second but still far ahead of Mr. Pence. And to many Republican voters, Mr. Pence is seen as either disloyal to his commander-in-chief or tainted by his association with one of the most controversial presidents in recent history.

Despite the seemingly impossible challenge, some observers say Mr. Pence could chart a path to the nomination.

“Pence does have a viable candidacy,” Mark Kaley, a public relations strategist who worked as a field organizer in the 2020 presidential election cycle, told The Epoch Times.

How does Pence get there? He needs to perform well at the debates and in the early primary states to prove he is a contender,” Mr. Kaley said.

Beyond that, according to Mr. Kaley, “for Pence or any other candidate … the stars need alignment to secure the nomination. But crazier things have happened.”

Based on his early campaign events, speeches, and policy statements, it appears Mr. Pence is banking on the alignment of three stars to create a winning platform: President Trump’s record, a revival of traditional conservatism, and a hunger in the electorate for a return to civility in political discourse.

Along the way, Mr. Pence will have to answer the question raised by many voters concerning his loyalty to the president and the party on Jan. 6, 2021.

The Trump-Pence Record

Mr. Pence draws on his role in the Trump administration to position himself as an experienced statesman who is ready to lead. In his speeches and writing, Mr. Pence portrays his vice presidential role as that of a trusted adviser to the president, often dispatched as a surrogate for dealing with international matters.

And the former vice president is not shy about claiming partial credit for President Trump’s accomplishments.

“I am incredibly proud of the record of the Trump-Pence administration,” Mr. Pence told a Republican group in Davenport, Iowa, on Aug. 10.

“In four short years, we rebuilt our military, revived our economy, we secured our border, we appointed conservatives to our courts at every level, including three new conservatives that were part of the majority that sent Roe vs. Wade to the ash heap of history and gave America a new beginning for the right to life.”

Earlier that day, Mr. Pence told a group of veterans that he negotiated President Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy, a key part of the administration’s approach to immigration, on behalf of the president. Mr. Pence has also spoken of confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In his memoir, “So Help Me God,” Mr. Pence describes a close working relationship with President Trump that included daily conversations. He was a confidant and adviser to the president, occasionally disagreeing with him though always in private, according to Mr. Pence.

“I’ll always believe that we charted a course for restoring American security and prosperity,” Mr. Pence told Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds during an interview at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 11.

By running on the Trump record, Mr. Pence aims to show himself as the most experienced leader in the field other than President Trump himself, and perhaps the only true statesman.

“I’m running because I think this is no time for on-the-job training. The challenges America is facing around the world are profound,” Mr. Pence told Ms. Reynolds.

“And we need leadership that can appeal to the better angels of our nature, leadership that can at least have the possibility of bringing American people together,” Mr. Pence told Ms. Reynolds.

Classic Conservative

While Mr. Pence can point to his record as a governor and vice president, he’s not the only experienced executive in the race.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is running largely on his record in Florida. Candidates Nikki Haley and Asa Hutchinson are both former governors, of South Carolina and Arkansas respectively, and both have served in executive roles in prior presidential administrations.

Mr. Pence wants to make America strong again. His strategy for doing so is to bulk up the military, downsize the federal government, and unleash American energy production.

If that sounds like classic Reaganism of the 1980s, it is.

The former vice president refers to President Reagan often as his political hero and frequently borrows the statement made often by President Reagan, “Peace comes through strength.”

If elected, Mr. Pence intends to transport the country back to a future defined by true conservatism, which he believes is seeping out of the Republican Party.

“I believe we must give the American people new Republican leadership, leadership with a proven commitment to the conservative agenda,” Mr. Pence told some 1,200 Republican donors at a state fundraising dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 28.

“I look forward to being on that debate stage so I can talk about the vision that I have for the Republican party going forward,” Mr. Pence told reporters on Aug. 2, speaking of the upcoming GOP debate.

“I think I’ll not only be the most experienced conservative on that stage, the most qualified candidate to be the next president of the United States. But I also believe I’ll be able to draw a contrast between my former running mate and others on the stage, who increasingly are walking away from that time-honored conservative agenda that has built the Republican Party over the last 50 years.”

Here Mr. Pence plays to his view of American strength, which he equates with global military dominance. That includes significantly increasing military spending to a minimum of 3.5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). During the Reagan years, U.S. military spending averaged above 6 percent of GDP but has fallen to about 3 percent. The percentage is expected to decrease further, reaching about 2.8 percent by 2033, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“We need to hew to our roots,” Mr. Pence said on Aug. 10. “We need to stand firm in the belief that America is the leader of the free world, the arsenal of democracy.”

Regulatory Reform

Federal deregulation is another tenet of Reagan conservatism.

Noting that President Trump promised to remove two federal regulations for each new one implemented, Mr. Pence has said he would eliminate three for one. He has also said he would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Education, install new leadership in the Department of Justice, and revoke billions in funding for the hiring of additional IRS agents over the next decade.

Reducing the size and scope of the federal government is a standard Republican talking point. For Mr. Pence, however, that goes beyond eliminating burdensome bureaucracy. He sees it as an effort to return the federal government to its proper constitutional role.

“We’re going to revive federalism in America, because America’s governors, Republican governors, are proving every day that you can deliver prosperity and security and opportunity for your people,” Mr. Pence said in the interview with Ms. Reynolds.

“We’ve got to have a season where we’re returning to the states and to the American people what our founders intended under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution,” he said.

The 10th Amendment states that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Mr. Pence is a fiscal conservative who advocates for reductions in both taxes and spending, including an overhaul of Medicare and Social Security.

Mr. Pence’s social conservatism is well known. He describes himself as unapologetically pro-life and advocates a national ban on abortion at 15 weeks as a minimum standard.

The federalist strategy may work better for the primaries than for the general election, if Mr. Pence were to get that far, according to one analyst.

“His main base remains those that are conservatives with a strong view on keeping the GOP tilted towards the recent Supreme Court decisions, those seeking to enshrine conservatism not merely in terms of an election strategy but in long-term constitutional rulings,” Alp Sevimlisoy, Millennium Leadership Fellow at the Atlantic Council, told The Epoch Times.

To win in 2024, however, Mr. Pence would have to broaden his coalition, according to Mr. Sevimlisoy, moving closer to Rockefeller Republicanism, known for financial conservatism and social liberalism.

“That may be a challenge for him,” Mr. Sevimlisoy said. “However, with the right vice presidential candidate, this would send a message to the GOP that he is able to keep both the bulk of social conservatives within the Republican movement intact whilst attracting moderate Republicans and centrist Democrats.”

Basic Civility

“I’m a conservative, but I’m not angry about it,” Mr. Pence often says, aiming to distance himself from the scorched-earth rhetoric common to political campaigns.

“I believe that democracy depends on heavy doses of civility,” Mr. Pence said when announcing his campaign on June 7. He promised to work respectfully with people from across the political spectrum to solve the country’s problems.

That attitude is one of Mr. Pence’s major assets, according to Chip Saltsman, a veteran campaign strategist serving as political director for the Pence campaign.

“I think Mike Pence is everything traditional Republicans are looking for. Plus, he’s got a kicker. He’s incredibly humble, and he thinks civility is a virtue,” Mr. Saltsman told The Epoch Times on Aug. 10.

“I think there are a lot of people in our party that are looking for somebody that thinks civility is a virtue, somebody that believes in the traditional values of the Republican Party—and that’s everything from cutting taxes to balancing the budget to those conservative issues like pro-life—and delivers those in a way that people will actually listen,” Mr. Saltsman said.

The Jan. 6 Question

To many Trump voters, Mr. Pence is seen as having abandoned the president and the party on Jan. 6, 2021, when he refused to return the electoral ballots to the states for recertification as President Trump demanded. As vice president, Mr. Pence presided over the opening of electoral college ballots in a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6.

“If it wasn’t for your vote, we would not have Joe Biden in the White House,” Luann Bertrand told Mr. Pence at a campaign stop in Sioux City, Iowa, on July 5.

“Joe Biden shouldn’t be there. And all those wonderful things that you and Trump were doing together would be continuing, and this country would be on the right path,” Ms. Bertrand said.

Protesters showed up at a Pence campaign event in New Hampshire on Aug. 5, asking why he didn’t uphold the Constitution.

Mr. Pence replies to such questions by pointing out that the Constitution provides no authority to the vice president to unilaterally reject electoral ballots.

“[President Trump] was asking me to choose between him and the Constitution. I chose the Constitution, and I always will,” Mr. Pence has frequently said.

That approach is usually successful in changing minds, according to Mr. Saltsman.

“When he talks through the Constitution, what it says, and what his role was that day, the vast majority of people we talk to understand it. We hear a lot of ‘I didn’t know that,’” Mr. Saltsman said. He added that most have based their opinions on what they’ve heard from others and have not read the relevant portion of the Constitution.

“For us, this is why events like this are so important,” Mr. Saltsman said, speaking of a campaign event attended by about 30 people. “Having those conversations that last more than 30 seconds [helps] people understand his role on January 6 in a much different light than they did at the time.”

Time-Tested Strategy

Mr. Pence is following a traditional campaign strategy for Iowa, which relies on small gatherings in restaurants, town halls, and even living rooms to meet with potential caucus attendees.

At some point, however, Mr. Pence will need to increase his attacks on President Trump in order to get the message across to a wider audience, according to Mr. Kaley.

“He has finally taken the training wheels off and is attacking Trump for Jan. 6. He needs to continue hammering that point home and get even tougher,” Mr. Haley said.

That may be one thing Mr. Pence is unwilling to do to gain the presidency.

“I’m not going to engage in negative personal attacks. I’m going to draw the contrast, lay out the choice, and focus on how we make this country more prosperous and secure after the disastrous policies of President Joe Biden in the White House,” he said in an ABC interview on Aug. 14.

Mr. Pence qualified for the first Republican debate by attracting at least 40,000 financial contributors, the campaign announced on Aug. 8. The debate will be held in Milwaukee on Aug. 25.


Alp Sevimlisoy originally featured as per: Epoch Times