Mike Pence sought to position himself as an alternative to Donald Trump and his brand of politics during a pair of speaking events Wednesday.
Hinting at his own presidential ambitions, Pence warned against “unprincipled populism” in the GOP and declined to say he would support Trump in 2024.
Pence digs at Trump
The former vice president was asked whether he would back Trump during a Q & A at Georgetown University, and his answer was evasive.
“Well, there might be somebody else I’d prefer more,” he said, clearly alluding to himself.
Earlier in the day, at a Heritage Foundation event, Pence sought to define himself as a champion of traditional conservatism against what he described as the dangerously “unprincipled populism” of Trump’s MAGA movement.
“Our movement cannot forsake the foundational commitment that we have to security, to limited government, to liberty and to life. But nor can we allow our movement to be led astray by the siren song of unprincipled populism that’s unmoored from our oldest traditions and most cherished values,” he said.
Pence also admonished “Putin apologists” on the right, echoing language that has been used to disparage isolationist Trump supporters who are skeptical of U.S. intervention in the Ukraine-Russia war.
Trump still in charge?
While Pence seems to think Republicans should move on from Trump the man, the vice president emphasized Wednesday what “we” accomplished during Trump’s four years.
“By advancing principles of economic freedom, we became a net exporter of energy for the first time in 70 years. We held China accountable for trade abuses. We secured our border and reduced illegal immigration by 90%,” he said.
A rift has grown between Trump and Pence since the January 6th Capitol protest. Trump has called Pence a coward for failing to block the certification of the election results, but Pence has said he was bound by the Constitution to recognize Joe Biden as the winner.
Despite Pence’s obvious ambitions, Trump remains the dominant figure in the GOP and most polls show him leading the 2024 Republican primary by a comfortable margin, with Pence coming up in third behind Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R).
Trump has repeatedly hinted at running for president again, even as he faces a criminal investigation by the Biden administration that Trump says is aimed at taking him out of the running.