Pence enters race challenging Trump for 2024 with 'considerations beyond nomination'
Published: Jun 06, 2023 10:50 PM
US Vice President Mike Pence (front) attends a press conference on the coronavirus at the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on March 2, 2020. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)

Former US Vice President Mike Pence (front) attends a press conference on the coronavirus at the White House in Washington D.C., the US, on March 2, 2020. Photo: Xinhua

Former US vice president Mike Pence filed the paperwork for his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination on Monday, and is expected to formally announce his candidacy in Des Moines, Iowa on Wednesday, while his former boss, president Donald Trump leads the polls at this early stage of race for the GOP's presidential nomination.  

It is the first time a former US vice-president and his former president will compete for the party's presidential nomination, according to media reports. "I think we'll have better choices," Pence told the Associated Press (AP) recently.

Since Pence is far from favored in most polls, as a representative of the GOP establishment, Pence may seek to distance himself from Trump even more while encouraging the party to diminish the level of support for Trump's populist wave through running for election, experts said. 

Pence was known as a "loyal deputy" to Trump for most of the time until Trump slammed him for "lacking courage" in refusing to help overturn the 2020 election result amid the January 6 Capitol riots, with some Trump's supporters even threatening Pence and his family's safety. 

According to CNN, Pence, an "evangelical Christian who has long opposed abortion rights," was selected as Trump's deputy in 2016 to "shore up the GOP's socially conservative base."

Pence supporters see "a reliable conservative who espouses many of the previous administration's policies but without the constant tumult," according to AP. However, Pence has been polling in the single digits, well behind Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Some anti-Trump voters are skeptical of Pence for not being sufficiently distanced from the former president, while some Trump loyalists blame Pence for his act of "betrayal" over the election.

"Pence's chance of winning the nomination is currently slim… Pence is probably clear about that, and that means his considerations may lie beyond the nomination," Diao Daming, an associate professor at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Since Pence stood in opposition to Trump in the late period of Trump's administration, he may hope to completely cut his association with Trump through intra-party competition and obtain a more decent historical position within the Republican Party, Diao said. 

On the other hand, it is also a way to promote the GOP early, at least in the physical sense, to rid the party of Trump and his influence as soon as possible, the expert added. 

Liu Weidong, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that Pence may believe that the anti-establishment forces represented by Trump are not as strong as they once were. And the conservative establishment in GOP expects a credible, principled alternative to Trump. 

For the GOP establishment, even if Trump wins this time, the attempt can be viewed as a kind of accumulation, laying the groundwork for the future, Liu noted.

The race for the GOP nomination is far fiercer compared to the Democrats. Besides Pence, Trump and DeSantis, the crowded list includes former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and North Dakota Govenor Doug Burgum, according to the AP. 

GOP politicians may find a new trend - that the populism driven by Trump does not seem to be so invincible, as people's attention on Trump is declining as his scandals continue to be revealed, Liu said. 

The first televised debate of the GOP nomination contest will be in August, and according to Diao, if DeSantis still fails to close the gap with Trump in the polls by then, Trump is very likely to be the nominee. 

The Democrats may hope that a "bruised Trump" will represent the GOP in 2024, and the GOP probably have noticed that, Diao said. 

On the one hand, Trump's scandals will further shore up the support of his base, making it easier for Trump to secure the nomination, but scandals will no longer be the bonus for Trump in the 2024 presidential election, as the Democrats will use it against him, and swing voters will be less inclined to lean toward a scandal-ridden person, Diao noted.