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Pence Launches 2024 Presidential Bid   06/07 06:07


   DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Former Vice President Mike Pence promised "the best 
days of the greatest nation on earth are yet to come" in a video released 
Wednesday formally launching his campaign for the Republican nomination for 

   "Different times call for different leadership," Pence, who served four 
years alongside President Donald Trump, says in the video, released via Fox 
News and Twitter hours ahead of a kickoff event in Des Moines. "Today our party 
and our country need a leader that'll appeal, as Lincoln said, to the better 
angels of our nature."

   While it would be "easy to stay on the sidelines," he adds, "that's not how 
I was raised. That's why today, before God and my family, I'm announcing I'm 
running for president of the United States."

   Pence is staking his presidential hopes on Iowa as he launches a campaign 
that will make him the first vice president in modern history to take on his 
former running mate.

   Pence's campaign will also test the party's appetite for a socially 
conservative, mild-mannered and deeply religious candidate who has denounced 
the populist tide that has swept through his party under Trump. And it will 
show whether Pence still has a political future after Jan. 6, 2021, with a 
large portion of GOP voters still believing Trump's lies that the 2020 election 
was stolen and that Pence had the power to reject the results of the election, 
won by Democrat Joe Biden.

   Pence and his advisers see Iowa -- the state that will cast the first votes 
of the GOP nominating calendar -- as key to his potential pathway to the 
nomination. Its caucus-goers include a large portion of evangelical Christian 
voters, whom they see as a natural constituency for Pence. They also think 
Pence, who represented Indiana in Congress and as governor, is a good 
personality fit with the Midwestern state.

   "We believe the path to victory runs through Iowa and all of its 99 
counties," said Scott Reed, co-chair of a super PAC that launched last month to 
support Pence's candidacy.

   Iowa has typically been seen as a launching pad for presidential candidates, 
delivering momentum, money and attention to hopefuls who win or defy 
expectations. But recent past winners including Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and 
Mike Huckabee have failed to ultimately win the nomination.

   And Pence faces steep challenges. He enters the race as among the best-known 
Republican candidates in a crowded GOP field that now includes Trump, Florida 
Gov. Ron DeSantis, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina 
Sen. Tim Scott, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. 
Asa Hutchinson.

   But Pence -- seen by Trump critics as complicit with his most indefensible 
actions and maligned by Trump loyalists as a traitor -- is also saddled with 
high unfavorable ratings.

   A CNN poll conducted last month found 45% of Republicans and 
Republican-leaning independents said they would not support Pence under any 
circumstance. Only 16% said the same about Trump.

   Pence's favorability has also slipped in Iowa, according to The Des Moines 
Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.

   Shortly after leaving office, in June 2021, 86% of Iowa Republicans said 
they had a favorable view of Pence. But the Register's March Iowa Poll showed 
that figure had dropped to 66%. The poll also found Pence with higher 
unfavorable ratings than all of the other candidates it asked about, including 
Trump and DeSantis, with 26% of Republicans polled saying they have a 
"somewhat" or "very" unfavorable view of him.

   And just 58% of Iowa evangelicals said they had favorable feelings toward 
Pence -- a particularly disappointing number, given his campaign's strategy.

   But Pence, who has already visited Iowa more than a dozen times since 
leaving office, has also received a warm welcome from voters during his trips. 
During a "Roast and Ride" event over the weekend that drew a long list of 2024 
candidates, Pence stood out as the only candidate to actually mount a Harley 
and participate in the event's annual motorcycle ride. When he arrived at a 
barbecue at the state fairgrounds, he moved easily from table to table, warmly 
greeting and chatting with attendees.

   But there remains lingering skepticism of Pence among many Republican voters 
who adhere to the baseless but persistent conspiracy theory that the 2020 
election was stolen. Many who cling to the falsehood believe Pence was 
complicit in the plot to deny Trump a second term because he refused Trump's 
pressure campaign to reject the Electoral College vote when he presided over a 
joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump's supporters 
violently stormed the building.

   Pence advisers say they recognize the challenge and intend to explain to 
voters directly that Pence was adhering to his constitutional duty and never 
had the power to impact the vote in his ceremonial role.

   "I think it's something you have to walk straight through," said his 
longtime adviser Marc Short.

   Beyond Jan. 6, his team sees their primary goal as reintroducing Pence to a 
country that largely knows him as Trump's second-in-command. They want to 
remind voters of his time in congressional leadership and as governor and are 
planning a campaign heavy with town halls, house parties and visits to local 
diners and Pizza Ranch restaurants --- more intimate settings that will help 
voters get to know him personally.

   "People have seen Mike Pence the vice president. I think what people are 
going to see is Mike Pence the person," said Todd Hudson, the speaker of the 
House in Indiana and a longtime Pence friend who has signed on to help with 
outreach to state legislators. "I'm super excited for people to get to know the 
Mike Pence that I know, who's funny, who's just a wonderful person... the more 
relaxed Mike Pence."

   Reed believes there is a strong desire in the party for a candidate like 
Pence who espouses Reagan-style conservatism, including traditional social 
values, hawkish foreign policy and small government economics.

   "We think this nomination fight is going to be an epic battle for the heart 
and soul of the conservative, traditional wing of the Republican Party. And 
Pence is going to campaign as a classic conservative. His credentials are 
unmatched," he said.

   Unlike Trump and DeSantis, Pence has argued that cuts to Social Security and 
Medicare must be on the table and has blasted those who have questioned why the 
U.S. should continue to send aid to Ukraine to counter Russian aggression.

   "We are not going to try to out-Trump Pence. Everybody else is," Reed said. 
"Pence is the only candidate running not to be Trump's VP."

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