Mike Pence set to launch his presidential campaign in Iowa next week

Former US vice president slated to throw his hat in the ring against his former boss as the race for the Republican nomination heats up

Former vice president Mike Pence pauses while speaking at the Federalist Society Executive Branch Review conference, April 25, 2023, in Washington. (AP/Alex Brandon)
Former vice president Mike Pence pauses while speaking at the Federalist Society Executive Branch Review conference, April 25, 2023, in Washington. (AP/Alex Brandon)

NEW YORK (AP) — Former US vice president Mike Pence will officially launch his long-expected campaign for the Republican nomination for president in Iowa next week, adding another candidate to the growing GOP field and putting him in direct competition with his former boss.

Pence will hold a kickoff event in Des Moines on June 7, the date of his 64th birthday, according to two people familiar with his plans who spoke on condition of anonymity to share details ahead of the official announcement. He is also expected to release a video message that morning as part of the launch.

The decision to begin his campaign in Iowa instead of his home state of Indiana underscores the importance Pence’s team is placing on the early-voting state. They see Iowa as critical to Pence’s potential path to victory and hope his message will resonate with the evangelical Christian voters who make up a substantial portion of the state’s Republican electorate. Pence is an avowed social conservative and is staunchly opposed to abortion rights, favoring a national ban.

Advisers say he plans to campaign aggressively in the state, hitting every one of its 99 counties before the caucuses next year.

The campaign is expected to lean heavily on town halls and retail stops — including plenty of visits to Iowa’s famed Pizza Ranch chain — aimed at showcasing Pence’s personality and background as he tries to emerge from former president Donald Trump’s shadow.

While Pence is well-known by Republican voters, aides believe he needs to reintroduce himself to voters who only know him from his time as Trump’s second-in-command. Pence, who served for more than a decade in Congress and as Indiana’s governor before he was tapped as Trump’s running mate in 2016, had been an exceedingly loyal vice president until he broke with Trump over the 2020 election.

US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence stand on stage during the first day of the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, Aug. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Trump, desperate to overturn his loss and remain in power, had tried to convince Pence — and his supporters — that Pence could somehow reject voters’ will as he presided over the ceremonial counting of the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021, even though the vice president has no such power. As the count was underway, a violent mob of Trump’s supporters stormed the building, smashing through windows, assailing police and sending Pence, his family and his staff racing for cover as members of the mob chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!”

Pence has said Trump’s “reckless words” endangered his family and everyone else who was at the Capitol that day. He has said “history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”

“For four years, we had a close working relationship. It did not end well,” Pence wrote in his book, “So Help Me God.”

Pence has spent the 2.5 years since then strategically distancing himself from Trump as he has laid the groundwork for the campaign. While he consistently praises the record of the “Trump-Pence administration,” he has also stressed differences between the two men, on both policy and style.

He has called on his party to move on from Trump’s election grievances, warned against the growing tide of populism in the Republican Party, and admonished “Putin apologists” unwilling to stand up to the Russian leader over his assault on Ukraine, in a dig at Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running a distant second to Trump in the polls.

He has also argued in favor of cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare — which both Trump and DeSantis have vowed not to touch — and criticized DeSantis for his escalating feud with Disney.

Then-vice president Mike Pence looks at a mobile device from a secured loading dock amid riots at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021. (House Select Committee via AP)

Pence also testified last month before a federal grand jury investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Pence has spent months visiting early voting states, delivering policy speeches, speaking at churches and courting donors as he has tested the waters on a presidential run. Allies had launched a super PAC earlier this month that will focus on building a paid ground operation to get people out to vote.

The week will be a busy one for GOP announcements. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is planning to launch his campaign Tuesday evening at a town hall event in New Hampshire and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum will announce his own bid on June 7 in Fargo.

Pence is expected to travel to New Hampshire and North Carolina later in the week.

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