Former vice president Mike Pence’s allies are launching a super PAC to boost a potential presidential bid, the latest sign he is moving closer to a White House run.
Pence and advisers have hinted at a June launch for the presidency, potentially kicking off a historic matchup of a former president against his former vice president. The group, blessed by Pence’s top aides and called “Committed to America,” is partially designed to build a positive image for Pence, who has gained little traction against his former boss Donald Trump and other would-be Republican candidates, polls show.
“People know Mike Pence, they just don’t know him well,” said Scott Reed, a longtime Republican operative who is helping lead the effort. “This campaign is going to reintroduce Mike Pence to the country as his own man, not as vice president, but as a true economic, social, and national security conservative — a Reagan conservative.”
Pence has yet to officially announce whether he’ll enter the 2024 GOP primary, though he is showing signs that he is leaning toward jumping in and has said publicly he will announce his decision by the end of June. Pence served Trump for four years in the White House, showing loyalty before breaking with him over Trump’s pressure to try to overturn the 2020 election results on Jan. 6, 2021, amid false claims of widespread voter fraud.
Pence has faced criticism from Trump and his supporters for his refusal to try to reverse the defeat when the lawmakers convened to certify the election results that day. A pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, and congressional testimony indicated that Trump privately fumed at Pence for turning him down and responded approvingly to hearing rioters chanting “Hang Mike Pence.” In March, Trump claimed the violence he inspired that day was Pence’s fault.
The pro-Pence PAC is likely to highlight Pence’s work on Jan. 6 and criticize Trump for his attacks on Pence, but Pence has been careful to defend Trump on most fronts. Advisers to Pence say they want to bill him as a “classical conservative” who believes in the “sanctity of life” and the “advancement of free markets.”
People familiar with the super PAC effort did not disclose how much money would be behind it or reveal upcoming endorsements. They repeatedly declined to answer questions about how much money they would need, who would be giving the money and whether they had secured any endorsements. The PAC can raise unlimited funds but can’t directly coordinate on spending strategies with a Pence presidential campaign.
Advisers say the group hopes in part to repeat the successful gubernatorial campaign of Gov. Brian Kemp in Georgia in its approach to investments in voter contact, its leaders said. Bobby Saparow, who was Kemp’s campaign manager, will be the executive director. Others involved include former congressman Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Mike Ricci, who was communications director to then-Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
“We are going to do something very similar … You will see that what we built out with Gov. Kemp is going to be taken to the national stage. So we will also be doing a very extensive paid voter contact program through Committed to America,” Saparow said. “We have all the confidence in the world that the results that we were able to garner for Gov. Kemp we can duplicate for the vice president.
National polls have shown Trump as the clear leader in the Republican primary, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has made moves toward entering the contest, ranked second. Pence is currently polling in the single digits.
The former vice president has so far made more than ten trips to Iowa, eight to New Hampshire and six to South Carolina, according to people familiar with his schedule. While his allies emphasize he’ll campaign in all three states, Pence is expected to especially focus on Iowa, the first-in-the-nation GOP caucus state where evangelical voters have significant sway. Reed likened the super PAC’s strategy in Iowa to that of a county sheriff campaign and said it will organize in all 99 counties.