Pence’s Refusal to Endorse Trump Sends Shockwaves Through GOP

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Pence's Refusal to Endorse Trump Sends Shockwaves Through GOP

A prominent procession of Republicans, aiming to distance their party from Donald Trump in 2024, have come forward as potential candidates for the former president’s party. Many individuals have reluctantly offered their support almost equally: they are at least better for President Biden. Georgia Georgia Governor Brian Kemp expressed his optimism, saying, “I have faith they’ll outshine Biden.”

Pence emphasized, ‘The alternative is Biden,’ echoed by New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, highlighting the pivotal choice ahead.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) said, “The choice for the American people is crystal clear: it’s either Donald Trump or Joe Biden.”

Trump’s own Vice President presented a very different perspective on Friday.

While refusing to endorse Trump, Mike Pence made a significant statement that weakens other Trump-skeptical Republicans who have hinted that there is no alternative through their actions. His choice might just unveil a blueprint for those still wavering in the winds of uncertainty, granting them the nod they’ve been seeking.

Pence told Fox News on Friday, “It should come as no surprise that I won’t be endorsing Donald Trump this year.”

But this was somewhat surprising. After all, Pence raised his hand in an August debate when asked if he would support Trump even if he were to become a defendant in the primaries alongside other Republican presidential candidates.

Pence’s rationale is noteworthy. It’s not that he sees Trump as dangerous to democracy, nor is he particularly troubled by Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election on January 6, 2021. (During the Capitol unrest, a chilling chant of “Hang Mike Pence” echoed, followed by Trump’s Twitter attack on Pence. The political turmoil reached a fever pitch.)

Instead, Pence criticized Trump’s current version on issues like abortion, national debt, China, and TikTok as insufficiently conservative.

Pence expressed his reservations about endorsing Donald Trump for the upcoming campaign, citing a misalignment between Trump’s agenda and the conservative values upheld during their tenure. “Donald Trump is charting a course that diverges from the conservative path we’ve diligently paved over the past four years,” Pence remarked. This forthright stance underscores the complexity of political alliances and personal convictions in the current landscape.

Pence said he wouldn’t support Biden, but otherwise said he would keep his ballot private. Sometimes, candidates will say they’re voting for a candidate but it’s not technically an endorsement; Pence won’t go that far.

It sheds light on those Republicans who have blamed Trump for January 6 or his anarchic governing style, but have now signaled they have no other option because they’re prepared to run for office. They have treated Trump’s support as a pro forma since they share a party label and a common enemy – it doesn’t matter what they said before.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said last week, “As the Senate Republican leader, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I won’t commit to supporting a Republican candidate for president on the first page.”

Pence underscores his identity: “I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican – in that order.” Here, he subtly implies that being a conservative holds greater significance than party affiliation, offering a unique perspective that challenges fellow Republicans prioritizing party allegiance over ideological beliefs. This assertion sparks a compelling debate within the GOP, prompting reflection on the hierarchy of values in political identity.

Pence’s lack of support also exposes a gap between elected GOP officials and those who served in Trump’s Cabinet. ABC News contacted 44 former Cabinet officials last summer and found that only four would be committed to supporting Trump in the early stages of the competition. Several former top officials such as former Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Mark T. Esper have become vocal critics of Trump.

Many of these officials share some similarities with former colleagues who have permanently severed ties with Trump: they don’t have immediate political futures to consider – and no political base to appeal to support Trump. 

Perhaps Pence is also in that camp; his 2024 presidential campaign has been marred by accident and scorched by Trump, who turned his base against him, despite his loyal service. But in the conservative movement, Pence’s lack of support is at least one plausible path, and yet he has taken a very important step to remove Trump.

Now we’ll see if others can follow his lead.

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