Saying “different times call for different leadership,” former Vice President Mike Pence announced that he’s challenging his former boss, Donald Trump, for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
“Today, our party and our country need a leader that’ll appeal, as Lincoln said, to the better angels of our nature,” Pence declared in a video released Wednesday before a kick-off event in Iowa, which has the first-in-the-nation GOP caucuses and where he’s concentrating his campaign.
“It’d be easy to stay on the sidelines, but that’s not how I was raised,” Pence said in the video. “That’s why today, before God and my family, I’m announcing I’m running for president of the United States.”
The former Indiana congressman and governor joins a crowded GOP roster with more than 10 candidates that is still growing, with North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum also expected to announce his candidacy on Wednesday.
Pence, who turned 64 on Wednesday, didn’t mention Trump by name in the video and argued that the US is in trouble because “President Joe Biden and the radical left have weakened America at home and abroad.” Among the threats he said the nation faced were inflation, a looming recession and a southern US border “under siege.”
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“Every time our nation has produced leadership that has called upon this country to do hard things, the American people have always risen to the challenge,” Pence said in the video. “And we will again, we just need government as good as our people to do it.”
He’s focusing his campaign on Iowa, where he hopes to connect with evangelical voters and Iowans as a fellow Midwesterner. He begins with an event near Des Moines on Wednesday.
Scott Reed, co-chairman of the super political action committee supporting Pence, told reporters last month, “We’re going to organize Iowa, all 99 counties, like we’re running him for county sheriff.”
The former vice president is offering himself as the only traditional conservative in the field who can win the Republican nomination, defeat Biden — and govern with more civility than Trump.
He evoked the memory of President Ronald Reagan, who he said “called on Americans to renew optimism, and believe in themselves again, to believe in each other.”
As Trump’s vice president, Pence was loyal to a point critics called obsequious. A breaking point came during the Jan. 6 insurrection, when he refused Trump’s demand to reject Electoral College votes for Biden. Pence said he didn’t have the constitutional authority, prompting some in the mob that stormed the US Capitol to chant “Hang Mike Pence.”
Critics question whether Pence has a viable path through the primaries, given his inability so far to win over hard-core Trump supporters and Republicans looking for an alternative. He hasn’t yet broken out of the lower tier of candidates in early polling despite his almost-universal name recognition.
“I wish him a lot of luck,” Trump said in an interview Monday with radio host Todd Starnes. “He’s a nice person. We had a very good relationship until the very end.”
Pence is promising to restore the policies of what he calls the “Trump-Pence administration” that are popular with Republican voters, while breaking from his former running mate on election denialism and other issues including whether to make changes to Social Security and Medicare.