Former VP Mike Pence launches presidential bid, chances of reaching Indiana primaries 'uncertain'
Former Vice President Mike Pence announced his presidential bid in Des Moines, Iowa, Wednesday. He joins 10 other Republican candidates for president – including his former boss, Donald Trump.
Elizabeth Bennion is Chancellor’s Professor of Political Science at Indiana University South Bend.
She said with several front-runners, it is difficult to tell whether or not he’ll make it to Indiana’s primary – which is one of the last states to hold one.
“I think it's too early to know whether or not he'll be a viable candidate in May. He is certainly behind other candidates, including Donald Trump and second in line, Ron DeSantis,” she said.
She said Trump’s future is uncertain given his legal troubles. Bennion said it is possible voters may split the vote as well, giving Pence a chance to continue on.
“Folks who are tired of drama and headlines focused around personality and might want what Pence calls the Trump-Pence policies without all of the extra drama that's attached to it,” she said.
Bennion said Pence has some conservative values that were popular before Trump’s presidency – with less of a focus on “anti-woke culture” and tightening border security. She said this “steady” leadership may be popular and allow Pence a better chance of getting through primaries.
“One of the questions is how many of those establishment Republicans, more traditional Republicans, Reagan-style Republicans, are left in the GOP and particularly among primary voters,” she said.
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Bennion said in Trump-era politics, Pence was often berated for either being too moderate or not criticizing Trump enough during his time as vice president. She said in order to get elected, he must find the moderate voters between these extremes.
“Where are those voters who are neither the folks who just hated everything about the Trump-Pence administration and those who are loyal to Donald Trump and are making him by far the frontrunner in the GOP primary?” she asked.
Bennion said many “Trump loyalists” were upset Pence did not overturn 2020 election results – even as she explained Pence did “not have this power constitutionally.”
Despite this, she said Pence has “solid conservative credentials” and consistency that could set him apart from other Republican candidates..
“This could help him with donors and those who really can give him the type of money and support he needs to sustain the campaign over the long term as the situation changes,” Bennion said.
When he joined Trump’s ticket in 2016, Pence’s re-election campaign for Indiana governor was colored by the controversy of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, and waning poll numbers which predicted a dead heat between Pence and then-gubernatorial candidate John Gregg.