Former United States Vice President Mike Pence is expected to officially announce his presidential campaign in early June, putting him into competition with his old boss, ex-President Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, US news outlets including The Associated Press and Reuters reported that Pence will launch his bid for the White House on June 7 in the state of Iowa, citing sources familiar with his plans.
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While Pence has touted his work in the Trump administration, he has had a fraught relationship with Trump himself. “For four years, we had a close working relationship,” Pence wrote in his book So Help Me God. “It did not end well.”
Pence has criticised Trump for his rhetoric on January 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
A congressional panel investigating the riot said it heard testimony that Trump had commented approvingly when members of the mob called to hang Pence for refusing to go along with a scheme to reject Electoral College votes.
Pence has since denounced Trump’s rhetoric as “reckless” and said that “history will judge” the former president.
A crowded primary field
Pence’s reported plans will add another name to the growing list of candidates challenging Trump, the current frontrunner, for the Republican nomination in the 2024 election.
The party’s nominee will square off in the general election against the Democratic nominee, most likely President Joe Biden.
Among those vying for the Republican nomination is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, widely seen as Trump’s most serious challenger. He announced his campaign in a glitchy Twitter event last week.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is also expected to announce his presidential campaign next week, according to sources quoted in US news outlets. Like Pence, Christie formerly had close ties to Trump — serving as an adviser to his election campaign in 2016 — before becoming one of the former president’s critics.
Other candidates include US Senator Tim Scott, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who also served as United Nations ambassador under Trump.
However, polls have shown Trump maintaining a considerable advantage over his Republican challengers. In a survey of polls ranking Republican contenders, RealClearPolitics found that Pence was attracting only about four percent of support among GOP voters, compared with Trump’s 53 percent.
Christie’s figures have registered at about one percent or less.
Pence, an evangelical Christian and social conservative, served in the US House of Representatives from 2001 to 2013 and as Indiana governor from 2013 to 2017.
He has sought to portray himself as a more poised and consistently conservative figure than Trump, who remains entangled in a series of scandals and legal issues. Pence has indicated his support for a nationwide abortion ban but has also warned against far-right opposition to support for Ukraine, which is embroiled in conflict with Russia after the latter’s full-scale invasion in 2022.
It remains to be seen whether Pence’s message will catch on with Republican primary voters, some of whom harbour anger at Pence for refusing to act on Trump’s claims that a “rigged election” cost him the victory in the 2020 race.
Speaking at a National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in April, Pence walked on stage to boos from the audience.