WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — Former Vice President Mike Pence launched his presidential campaign Wednesday, joining a crowded 2024 Republican primary field where his former boss is the leading contender.
“I believe in the American people, and I have faith God is not done with America yet,” Pence wrote in a post on Twitter, announcing his campaign. “Together, we can bring this Country back, and the best days for the Greatest Nation on Earth are yet to come.”
In his announcement video, Pence hits at President Joe Biden, blaming his administration for high inflation, the crisis at the border and unstable international security. However, Pence heavily appeals to faith-based voters and the working class.
The former vice president also takes a subtle swipe at former president Donald Trump in the video, stating that “different times call for different leadership.”
“Today our party and our country need a leader that will appeal as Lincoln said to the better angels of our nature,” Pence said.
Since leaving the White House, Pence has notably been critical of Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election. He has said Trump put his life in danger by encouraging a mob of violent protesters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an effort to stop the certification of Electoral College votes.
“Now, I know our former president has said that I had the right to overturn the election. But Donald Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people and to the American people alone,” Pence said at a New Hampshire fundraiser dinner in March.
Now, the pair will challenge each other in a primary that will test the staying power of Trump, who many in the party argue is unelectable in a general election.
While he frequently lauds the accomplishments of the “Trump-Pence administration,” a Pence nomination in many ways would be a return to positions long associated with the Republican establishment but abandoned as Trump reshaped the party in his image. Pence has warned against the growing populist tide in the party, and advisers see him as the only traditional, Reagan-style conservative in the race.
Pence’s team sees Iowa and its evangelical Christian voters as critical to his potential path to victory. Advisers say he plans to campaign aggressively in the state, hitting every one of its 99 counties before its first-in-the-nation caucuses next year.
The campaign is expected to lean heavily on town halls and retail stops aimed at reintroducing Pence to voters who only know him from his time as Trump’s second-in-command. Pence served for more than a decade in Congress and as Indiana’s governor before he was tapped as Trump’s running mate in 2016.
Pence joins a Republican field that includes Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott, among others. Pence is polling at just over 5%, according to a FiveThirtyEight average, behind Trump and DeSantis.
Pence’s former chief of staff Marc Short shrugged off the poll numbers last month, saying they don’t mean much this early in the race.
“There’s a long road ahead here,” Short said at the time. “I think it’s important for Americans to actually see these candidates on a debate stage and be in a conversation with each other.”
Only six former U.S. vice presidents have been elected to the White House, including President Joe Biden, who is running for a second term.
A staunch opponent of abortion rights, Pence supports a national ban on the procedure and has campaigned against transgender-affirming policies in schools.
He has also argued that changes to Social Security and Medicare, like raising the age for qualification, should be on the table to keep the programs solvent — which both Trump and DeSantis have opposed — and criticized DeSantis for his escalating feud with Disney.
He also has said the U.S. should offer more support to Ukraine against Russian aggression while admonishing “Putin apologists” in the party unwilling to stand up to the Russian leader.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.