The increasingly acrimonious split between former Vice President Mike Pence and former President Donald Trump widened Monday as Pence endorsed another GOP gubernatorial primary candidate running against Trump’s preferred choice.
You don’t have to care much about Arizona politics to get the import of yet another sign of the slow-motion divorce between Trump, who continues to relitigate the 2020 election results, and other Republicans looking more to the future of the Republican Party – and themselves.
Pence has endorsed Karrin Robson, an Arizona Republican and member of the state Board of Regents. She’s also been endorsed by term-limited Gov. Doug Ducey was previously governor of Jan Brewer, Fyfe Symington and ex-Rep. Matt Salmon.
Trump has endorsed a former local TV anchor Kari Lake, who has enthusiastically supported Trump’s claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and fraudulent.
Trump and Pence both will run for Arizona in Friday’s Aug. 2 Primary Race. Spending has now surpassed $15 Million.
Unlike oTher Republicans who’ve shied away from direct confrontation with the 45th president and his slightly diminished but fervent band of loyal supporters, Pence has apparently decided that his best path to the party’s 2024 presidential nomination is not around Trump, but through him.
It’s a high-stakes risk for a high-stakes task for the former VP. Pence, who just turned 63, is counting on his staunchly conservative record in the House, as Indiana governor, and as vice president combined with his character, and close association with Trump’s economic, energy, and foreign affairs successes.
He hopes that will appeal to voters turned off by the Trump tumult, his behavior, outbursts, and rigid refusal to accept the 2020 election results, that is, GOP and independent voters who didn’t vote or drifted off to support Biden as a lame alternative.
It’s an unexpected turn. Pence had been Trump’s most trusted political partner for the past four years. He was also Trump’s loudest advocate and loyal supporter. Trump would turn 78 in 2024. Biden, then the oldest President ever, will be the same age.
But then Trump turned against the vice president for not opposing the election’s certification on Capitol Hill in January, 2021.
This is the second time Pence has campaigned against Trump’s gubernatorial primary choice. Pence was a supporter of the Georgia governor. Brian Kemp over former Sen. David Perdue, who was recruited by Trump to challenge Kemp for not overthrowing the state’s 2020 election results.
“When you say yes to Gov. Brian Kemp tomorrow,” Pence said then, “you will send a deafening message all across America that the Republican Party is the party of the future.”
Kemp went on to destroy Perdue by 52 points in the May 24 primary, which damaged the former president’s record of successful endorsements.
His numerous endorsements of Republican candidates in the Nov. 8 midterms are a gamble for the former casino operator as results will be closely watched to measure Trump’s ongoing influence within the party of Lincoln as attention turns to the 2024 presidential cycle.
Other GOP officeholders will be tempted to participate in the primary bids if they have a poor showing or mixed performance, even if it is to increase their national visibility for future cycles and to build donor networks.
The assumption is that Trump will attempt to become the second President to lose reelection and return to the White House in four years. Grover Cleveland (Woodrow Wilson was the only other Democratic to hold the White House) was elected during an 72-year Republican reign from 1884 to 1932. That marathon run of successes began with Abraham Lincoln, the party’s first president, and ran through Herbert Hoover, the last cabinet member to become president.
We analyzed Trump’s decision and outlook in our Sunday column here.
The modern vice presidents are not as successful in acquiring or inheriting the presidency. George H.W. Bush, Richard Nixon and Joe Biden all succeeded. Al Gore and Walter Mondale failed, as did Hubert Humphrey.
Lyndon Johnson, who inherited the White House with John Kennedy’s assassination, won his own election in 1964 but abandoned reelection in 1968 in the face of Vietnam War opposition.
Arizona, home to the GOP’s nominees in 1964, Barry Goldwater, and 2008, John McCain, was once a solid GOP state. But with 2020 voter turnout just a hair under 80 percent, Trump lost Arizona’s 11 electoral votes to Joe Biden by 10,457 votes out of more than 3.3 million cast.
Trump has also denounced Arizona’s Ducey for not overthrowing the narrow presidential election results in his state.
Pence called Taylor Robson “the best choice for Arizona’s future.” Pence added:
As Arizona Democrats pursue the reckless Biden-Harris agenda, Karrin Taylor Robson is the only candidate for governor that will keep Arizona’s border secure and streets safe, empower parents and create great schools, and promote conservative values.
While modern politics can be awash with charlatans, Vice President Pence has proven to be the real deal. Vice President Pence was a strong advocate for our Constitution and has maintained his conservative convictions. I look up to him as the Governor of (Indiana).
Lake is known for taking aggressive positions on many issues. She’s suggested declaring an invasion on the southern border to address the illegal immigrant influx. Trump’s wall must be completed, and she suggested that bombing the tunnels underground used by Mexican drug cartels could be used.
“I don’t care what Joe Biden says,” Lake told the Arizona Republic. “He’s an illegitimate president, and if he wants to try to stop us, then he can come down here and try to stop us.”
In April, an Arizona poll showed Lake, a former supporter of Barack Obama, running away with the governor’s race with a 30 to 9.5 percent lead over Taylor Robson. An earlier poll found that both women were in the upper 30 percent of statistically dead heat.