Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the Nixon National Energy Conference at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum in Yorba Linda, Calif., Wednesday, April 19, 2023.
Eric Thayer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mike Pence plans to enter the GOP presidential nomination fray on June 7 with a campaign video and kickoff speech in Des Moines, Iowa, according to a person familiar with his kickoff schedule.
The former vice president, a longtime defender of mainstream conservative priorities on social and economic issues, will join the race at a time when his former boss, former President Donald Trump, is claiming a majority in most national polls. and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. takes a clear second place.
Redefining himself to Republican voters, most of whom know him primarily as Trump’s vice president, will be a challenge.
But Pence, born in Indiana, sees his Midwestern GOP compatriots in Iowa and their early caucuses in the country as a hospitable home for his politics. Typically, the Iowa caucuses play a winnowing role in the nomination fight, providing rocket fuel to a handful of candidates while burying the hopes of others.
“We view this race as absolutely wide open, and Iowa is really going to solidify itself as a pivotal player,” said the person familiar with Pence’s plans. “It’s a place that values the principles of Mike Pence – traditional conservative principles – deep-rooted faith and uncommon character.”
The former vice president will campaign in all 99 counties of Iowa before the caucuses, the person said, adding that the campaign “will do the things that will put Mike Pence in an advantageous position.”
That includes a lot of retail politics, from town hall-style meetings with Iowans to walk-through sessions at restaurants. During these sessions, he will have to explain to Republican voters why he parted ways with Trump and certified their defeat in the 2020 election on January 6, 2021.
A pro-Trump mob ransacked the United States Capitol that day in an effort to stop certification, and some of the rioters chanted “hang Mike Pence.”
As he weighed a campaign in recent months, Pence showed his willingness to part ways with Trump on politics for the first time since becoming his running mate in 2016. In particular, Pence unequivocally backed US support to Ukraine and said Congress and the White House should consider cuts to Medicare and Social Security — positions at odds with those expressed by Trump.
Pence, who served a dozen years in the House and four years as Indiana governor, has long been one of the Republican Party’s most vocal leaders, pushing social conservative priorities on everything from abortion to LGBTQ rights. His record also shows a Reagan-era affinity for lower taxes, less regulation and robust defense spending.
Despite their estrangement, Pence’s criticisms of Trump have generally been indirect. The same goes for his approach to DeSantis, with whom he also disagrees over US involvement in Ukraine. Yet the former vice president’s entry into the race injects someone who has been defined for many Americans — for better and for worse — by his decision to stand up to Trump when the presidency and the Rule of law were at stake.
The field of contenders is growing more crowded week by week, with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum poised to enter the race in the coming days. It speaks to Trump’s failure to convince his Republican rivals that he is invincible and DeSantis’ inability to establish himself as Trump’s only rival.
For Pence, winning the nomination would be a long and unlikely road to prominence. He will make the first move in Des Moines next Wednesday, June 7, which is also his 64th birthday.
“What better place to make your announcement than somewhere that will be so crucial to the future of the nation,” said the person familiar with his plans. “It certainly reflects the importance we place on the state.”