Why Pence and Pompeo should drop out before dropping into the 2024 presidential race
The calendar says 2023, but politically, it’s 2024. Therefore, at the beginning of this volatile two-year presidential campaign cycle, expect at least half of the predictions and prognostications to be inoperative by January 2024. (But we don’t know which half!)
My speculation about a small fraction of the half likely to be valid a year from now concerns two names on The Hill’s recent report, “GOP Rankings: The Republicans most likely to be the party’s 2024 presidential nominee.” Ranked fifth was former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who leads former Vice President Mike Pence, in seventh place.
These distinguished “formers” from President Trump’s Cabinet share a similar trajectory (going nowhere) while deciding whether to fight their old boss and enter the race. I say, “don’t waste your time,” because this vainglorious exercise invariably leads to a future announcement: “Today, I will end my campaign.”
Meanwhile, the Mikes are trolling in Iowa, have visited New Hampshire and are touring red states to flack their books. Pence’s book, titled “So Help Me God,” last week ranked #11 on the New York Times bestseller list. Even so, the former VP fails to generate excitement outside his loyal base of white evangelical voters, which he famously brought to Trump’s victorious ticket in 2016.
Pompeo’s book “Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love” has a Jan. 24 publication date. But the only list that both Pompeo and Pence are likely to top is “Republicans least likely to win the 2024 nomination.”
Let’s begin with Pence, an honorable, loyal Christian man. Pence – after four years one breath away from becoming the most powerful man on the planet – has scar tissue from continuously biting his lower lip while silently standing next to President Trump.
However, when all the facts are known about Team Trump’s plot to remain in power, I believe history will cast Mike Pence as an American hero for his courageous actions on Jan. 6, 2021.
At the Capitol, when democracy was under attack (with a gallows erected to chants of “hang Mike Pence”), the vice president honored his oath of office, “so help me God.” And faithfully, under intense presidential pressure, Pence ignored Trump’s pleas not to fulfill his constitutionally mandated duty to certify the Electoral College votes. Consequently, repeatedly, he was called a “traitor” and shunned by the majority MAGA wing of the Republican Party.
Two years later, Pence is squandering his heroic legacy since testing presidential waters means he must appease Trump’s loyal base and convince them to support him. Hence why Pence has never publicly condemned Trump’s actions or the trauma he endured before, during and after Jan. 6, 2021.
Last year on the anniversary of Jan. 6, my Hill op-ed was headlined, “The ‘hero’ of Jan. 6 should embrace the truth.” But American voters are still waiting for Pence’s “truth” since he declined to testify in front of the Jan. 6 committee. In the meantime, on his book tour, Pence boasts about the Trump/Pence administration’s accomplishments, anticipating his 2024 run — running in circles earning single-digit support in GOP preference polls.
Instead, Pence should withdraw from 2024, play his heroic trump card and inspire others to do the right thing when the going gets tough in life-and-death situations.
Pence also knows that Trump could be toppled with the smallest bench of primary candidates. That’s another reason for Pence to declare, “So help me God” and serve the country by playing kingmaker — leading his evangelical base to support a godly winning candidate not named Trump.
But Mike Pompeo is not that candidate. Although fifth in The Hill’s rankings, Pompeo earned only 1 and 2 percentage points in recent GOP primary polls. Nevertheless, the former Kansas congressman tapped by Trump to be CIA director then secretary of state, and now a Fox News contributor, has a presidential resume — but only by divine intervention will he occupy the Oval Office. Speaking of almighty works, on Dec. 29, I received a fundraising email from Mike Pompeo with the subject line: “Wisdom from the Bible.” Pompeo quoted a passage from Jeremiah and then wrote:
“Our God-given freedoms are under assault. That’s why I created the Freedom Fund. To defend the freedoms and values that make America great against government overreach and the radical Left.” He continued:
Hey Mike: What about the “nightmare” perpetrated by your former boss, who trampled the Constitution trying to overturn a legitimate election to keep himself in power? Why haven’t you directly criticized his actions?
At least Pompeo had the guts to speak with the Jan. 6. committee. Then last week, his testimony transcript was released, with his shocking answer to the following question found on page 17, lines 14-16:
Q. “Did you reach out to any counterparts in other countries on [Jan 6] to convey any information or reassure them as the attack on the Capitol was unfolding?”
A. “I don’t recall.”
Pompeo’s answer signals a dereliction of duty and makes for an embarrassing opposition ad that writes itself. Cue the footage and deep male voice-over:
“The Capitol is under siege. A necessary step for the transfer of presidential power is threatened and halted. The vice president is hiding, the president is silent for hours, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says, ‘I DON’T RECALL’ reaching out to reassure our allies.”
Chances are Pompeo’s candidacy won’t get far enough to warrant that script. With no political lane, branding or constituency, Pompeo stands for nothing but lofty platitudes and, worse, will lose his Fox News gig once he declares.
New Year’s memo to Pence and Pompeo: Stay on the sidelines, write books, speak the truth about your old boss and support candidates who can defeat him.
Drop out before you drop in.
Myra Adams writes about politics and religion for numerous publications. She is a RealClearPolitics contributor and served on the creative team of two GOP presidential campaigns in 2004 and 2008. Follow her on Twitter @MyraKAdams.