Despite his support for the pro-life movement, Pence’s position within the Republican Party is significantly weaker than he would like to believe.
Earlier this morning, I woke up to find an article in the Washington Post detailing that, much to my chagrin, former Vice-President Mike Pence is considering running for President. Or, at the very least, he is dipping his toes into the water, so to speak. I could go on about how horrible it would be if Pence became President or how fundamentally ill-equipped and bigoted he is when serving as a statesman. All of which would be fair if it weren’t for the obvious fact that Mike Pence running for President is a supremely foolish idea.
January 6 is Still A Problem
Right off the bat, it needs to be reiterated the GOP is firmly entrenched with the ideals of Trumpism and not, as Pence would like to believe, the stodgy good ol’boys Republican Party that he claims to represent. A recent poll conducted earlier this month shows that up to 70 percent of Republicans believe that the 2020 election was stolen, putting the former Vice-President in an already difficult position with his party’s base. Nor are these polls unique. They have been replicated time and time again.
The grievances that Republicans have over 2020 are key to the Republican Base. Hell, some Republicans threatened to hang Pence over this very issue.
Whether or not Pence likes it, the legacy of January 6 and the claims of elections being stolen will still be a major part of any Republican nomination for President in 2024. The Texas GOP has gone so far as to officially adopt resolutions denouncing the election as stolen and that there was fraud in “key metropolitan areas.” This isn’t going away any time soon.
As the man who refused to decertify the election results, any hope that Pence will have at the presidency will be restrained, if not killed, by the legions of pro-Trump voices demanding an explanation why he refused to fight so-called voter fraud. But that is not the only problem Pence faces.
Abortion is Popular, and Pence Has No Filter
After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade (1973), Republicans across the nation began celebrating the decision, arguing that the decision was a victory for life. Pence, among those celebrating the decision, argued that the GOP should take it further. In an interview with Breitbart News, Pence argued that with Roe gone, it was time to initiate a federal abortion ban after the midterm elections, saying:
“Now that Roe v. Wade has been consigned to the ash heap of history, a new arena in the cause of life has emerged, and it is incumbent on all who cherish the sanctity of life to resolve that we will take the defense of the unborn and the support for women in crisis pregnancy centers to every state in America…Having been given this second chance for Life, we must not rest and must not relent until the sanctity of life is restored to the center of American law in every state in the land.”Mike Pence to Breibart News Reporter Matthew Boyle, June 24th, 2022.
However, other Republicans are much more reticent to engage in such a move. Former President Trump refuses to explicitly support an abortion ban, worrying that the recent ruling could provoke a backlash while praising it publicly. Even Ron DeSantis, who has been a strong supporter of Republican causes, has tempered his message on national bans, writing on Twitter that Florida will seek to expand “pro-life protections” without detailing what those are or how that will affect national abortion access.
It isn’t as if Republicans aren’t pro-life. They overwhelmingly are. Pew Research’s data shows that, on average, Republicans and Republican leans are strongly associated with the pro-life label, with 60 percent saying that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.
But elections don’t belong to one party, and despite the level of attention given to Democrats and Republicans fighting, neither side has an absolute majority among the people in terms of partisan identification. Data released from Gallup shows that among respondents of the American public, 29 percent identify as Republicans, and 31 percent identify as Democrats. However, neither party has the plurality of the public either. In fact, 39 percent of Americans identify as independents as of May 2022.
This means that although Pence may get credits among Republicans for supporting a national abortion ban in the primary season of a hypothetical election, he does not have the means to expand upon that into a general election without addressing the plurality of Americans who are not strictly within the party line. And he could succeed, but that development will inevitably be an uphill battle as public opinion among the general public leans in favor of Roe v. Wade (1973) remaining the law of the land.
Among American adults, 61 percent said that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with 37 percent saying the opposite, per Pew Research.
Earlier this month, Gallup also reported that public support for abortion increased to all-time highs not seen since 1995, meaning that the general electorate is likely inclined against the attack on Roe.
Therefore, any attempt to attack Roe could backfire when faced with a general election. While it could boost him in a primary, winning said primary is only the first step. Appealing to a general electorate outside of your party and being able to create an effective agenda is a complex battle that requires restraint. Mike Pence has none of that restraint. Suppose Pence can rally Republicans to his side, which is unlikely considering Republicans still prefer Trump. In that case, he will still have to deal with the overwhelming and consistent unpopularity of his position.
Overall, Mike Pence represents a style of Republican politics devoid of force or power. He can try to control the conspiratorial elements of the Trumpist wing of the party as much as he likes. He could even appeal to his pro-life bonafides. Either way, he will eventually face the consequences of those same positions. Whatever moderating forces he has to appeal to the general electorate will be excoriated by the Republican base. The general public will reject whatever appeal he has toward the Republican base, especially regarding abortion. At his core, Mike Pence is a dead fish in politics, and it will take a miracle to save him.