by Frank Holmes, reporter
All of Washington is fixated on one line of Mike Pence’s travel agenda.
Pundits and party leaders say a single trip the former vice president has planned for next month shows that he’s got big plans for 2024.
Pence will give the keynote speech to the April dinner of the Palmetto Family Council, a pro-life, social conservative organization.
What raised eyebrows about the event, which an aide leaked to the press on condition of anonymity, isn’t the organization’s views; everyone knows Mike Pence is a conservative Christian.
And it’s not the event’s size; Pence will only speak to 600 people at most, according to the group’s president, Dave Wilson.
It’s the group’s location.
The Palmetto Family Council is the leading pro-family think tank in South Carolina—a pivotal state in the 2024 Republican presidential primaries and the state that gave Joe Biden his party’s nomination in 2020.
Pence’s calendar has set tongues wagging inside the Beltway that the ex-veep plans to run for president on his own in 2024—possibly against his old boss.
President Donald Trump all-but announced his intentions to run for president during his speech at this year’s CPAC event.
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“Who knows? I may even decide to beat them for the third time,” Trump told his adoring followers.
And the CPAC poll that followed showed that, if he runs, Trump would crush all his competitors, like he did in 2016.
But Trump’s team has told the media that the 45th president won’t make an official announcement about his election plans until summer 2023.
It looks like Pence is setting himself up for a run in case Trump—who would be 78 in 2024—decides to sit the race out.
What’s more, it’s working. Three polls in a row have shown Pence as the GOP’s second choice if Trump doesn’t run for president in four years.
Pollster Tony Fabrizio has found that Trump would crush Pence in 2024 and leave him choking in the dust. Trump would win 51 percent of Republican primary voters, with Pence coming in a distant second—at nine percent.
But Fabrizio found, if you take Trump out of the picture, Pence moves up to first place at 19 percent, just ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who scored 17 percent.
That’s just the most recent poll showing Pence leading the also-rans.
A Harvard Harris poll has Pence topping the Republican field in four years if Trump doesn’t throw his hat in the ring. Pence would come in first in the non-Trump field, with 36 percent of the vote, while Sen. Ted Cruz came in second with 13 percent.
A second poll, from Echelon Insights, reveals Pence is sitting pretty with twice as many supporters as second-place Sen. Cruz.
The Fabrizio Lee poll also showed that Trump’s supporters split exactly evenly for their second choice between Pence and DeSantis.
All the returns show that the former vice president polls well with Trump supporters…but he scores even better with traditional, pre-Trump Republicans.
“That suggests that (Pence), at the moment, is the leading fusion candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024,” wrote Michael McKenna, a former deputy assistant to President Trump, in The Washington Times.
Pence may be hitting the campaign circuit and placing his marker if Trump falters. Obviously, a talk before South Carolina’s social issues powerhouse would give Pence a jumpstart with the two-thirds of voters in the state’s 2016 presidential primary who said they are evangelical or Born Again Christians.
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But Pence may have another reason to run: Trump may be ditching him in four years.
Trump insiders told Bloomberg News that if the former president runs for re-election in 2024, he will dump Pence and select a woman or a minority as his vice president.
The story didn’t name the tipsters, and Trump aide Jason Miller pushed back, calling the report “fake news.”
This is fake news. No such conversations are happening. https://t.co/RU8NG22d9u
— Jason Miller (@JasonMillerinDC) March 3, 2021
But there’s no question the relationship between the former running mates has been strained since January 6, when Pence refused to throw out pro-Biden electors and recognize members of the Electoral College who would vote for the Trump-Pence ticket.
The two didn’t speak for days afterwards, even though Pence had been inside the Capitol during the riot.
Pence may be trying to get ahead of the curve if Trump decides to spend his retirement at Mar-a-Lago or is unable to run. Or he may be setting up a showdown with the president who tossed him off the ticket.
Either way, if Trump isn’t on the ballot, Mike Pence could be the man to beat in 2024.
Frank Holmes is a veteran journalist and an outspoken conservative that talks about the news that was in his weekly article, “On The Holmes Front.”