In a donor call later that day, Steve DeMaura, Pence’s campaign manager, said he would “acknowledge the question the media seems to be obsessed with, namely: Will the vice president hold the debate?”
A week later, now at the Iowa State Fair, the image surrounding Pence has improved. The crowds of reporters at his press events have increased. He has raised the 40,000 donors needed to qualify for the first debate, including 7,400 the day after the impeachment, and looks like a virtual lock for the second debate as well. His campaign noted that he qualified for nine weeks, ahead of Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramasamy at 21 weeks and Tim Scott at 13 weeks.
But he is still posting in the single digits in the polls and has been chastised by Republicans for refusing to change the results of the 2020 election. While he arrived here on Friday to exhibit, his presidential campaign these days is as much shaped by his place in history as the Iowa caucuses.
After the political deadlock, Pence leaned into his actions on Jan. 6, vowing that Iowa — win or lose — would be relevant for the long haul as the government’s star witness in special counsel Jack Smith’s case against former President Donald Trump. Trump has attacked Pence for the first time Employment of differently abled persons To do the same.
In a fireside chat with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday, Pence brought up his own share of Jan. 6 without prompting, then walked to the Iowa pork tent at the state fair and said he welcomed questions about the day.
“For the last two and a half years, President Trump has been telling the American people things that are simply not true,” Pence told Politico. “I have no right to cancel the election. I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight. And I will continue.”
Mike Murphy, a former Republican member of the Indiana House of Representatives and a longtime friend of Pence, said, “He kind of said, ‘I’m going to act on my principles and the future will take care of itself.’
There were signs this week that the controversies surrounding Jan. 6 may not weaken Pence as much as advertised. He drew a sizable crowd at the Des Moines Register soapbox on Thursday, and the two toughest questions he received — “Why did you commit treason on January 6?” and “How’s life been going since Tucker Carlson ruined your life?” — asked by a Democrat and a Cary Lake staffer, respectively.
When he visited the pork tent the next day, at least half a dozen fair-goers thanked Pence for standing up to Trump.
“I appreciate what you did,” a man in a cutoff T-shirt, shorts and hiking boots told him.
“You’ve got to beat the other guy,” Troy Hazelbaker, a 54-year-old landowner and Trump voter from Pleasant Hill, told Pence about Trump.
“Keep smiling,” a man told Pence, inexplicably holding out a package of toothbrushes.
Ahead of the first debate, Pence is receiving the most intense media interest in his still-young candidacy.
“We’re getting to the end of the summer and all the Pence things are coming together at the right time,” said Scott Reed, co-chairman of the Pence-affiliated American Super PAC. “Trump is in another legal light, and those clouds are getting darker. DeSantis is really struggling. He’s not living up to expectations at any level. And Biden isn’t ready for another four-year term. The contrasts with Pence are clear.
However, at times the Pence campaign has brought elements of dramatic irony. An elected official who supported Pence, speaking on condition of anonymity to assess the campaign honestly, admitted they didn’t know if he would catch on.
“What else can he do? He’s in a corner,” said veteran Iowa Republican strategist David Koechel. “He’s got to lean into it. It’s true. He must testify at trial. Why avoid it? There is still a percentage of Republicans against Trump. Actually Trump supporters are not going to be there for Mike Pence under any circumstances. You can own your part in the whole thing.
Pence’s camp looks forward to the debate, where Pence is enjoying the opportunity to use the skills he’s honed to a vice presidential debate with Kamala Harris as part of the High School National Forensic League Speaking Tournament.
“If they’re realistic, I think the goal is to have the debate that he’s traditionally done well and hopefully give him a platform where people can see leadership and lead conservative politics,” said one Pence confidante, who spoke on condition of anonymity to publicly assess his campaign. , told POLITICO.
Last year, a Pence associate speculated to POLITICO that “Pence will have to decide whether he wants to be a Jim-Baker-like politician, always principled and lifelong truth-teller, regardless of the political cost.” ,” said the person, speaking on condition of anonymity to assess Pence’s campaign. “Or do you wish to be ordained?”
In Iowa, Pence believed he could do both. The world was his oyster — or Pork burgerAt the very least.
“This is my strike zone,” he told reporters.