“The Big Elephant”: Mike Pence Readies His Act III

Mike Pence Addresses GOP Lincoln-Reagan Dinner In New Hampshire
Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Tina Nguyen
September 20, 2021

Shortly after the events of January 6th, Mike Pence appeared to have become persona non MAGA in the Republican Party. Donald Trump loathed him for certifying Joe Biden’s election victory, reportedly refused to speak to him on the day of the insurrection, and briefly banned his staff from the White House grounds. Some of the president’s supporters had become convinced that Pence had the power to overturn the results, and were infuriated by the apparent betrayal. Several of the rioters at the Capitol chanted for him to be hanged. While Trump flew south to Mar-a-Lago for Biden’s inauguration, Pence awkwardly welcomed the 46th president in what many presumed was a final, irrevocable split.

Pence’s political arc has been defined by opportunism. His career seemed all but over by the time Trump picked him over Chris Christie in 2016. But by early 2021, it seemed like his fantasies of leveraging his time in Trump’s shadow for a 2024 run were truly cooked. I expected to see him one day running a right-wing think tank, and shrugged when I saw him take positions at Nixon-era institutions like the Heritage Foundation and Young America’s Foundation.

So the news, last week, that Pence and his allies have been exploring his options for a presidential run took me by surprise. Axios reported recently that Advancing American Freedom, a group staffed with Pence alumni, including his former chief of staff Marc Short, is looking to raise $18 million this year in order to “test the waters” for 2024.