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Why Mike Pence’s Non-Endorsement Matters

When CBS [1]‘ Margaret Brennan asked former Vice President Mike Pence if he would endorse Donald Trump this fall, the answer was already known. Pence had previously answered, “No.” Most, including me, felt it was solely driven by January 6th – which would have been more than enough. However, Pence expanded his critique of Trump to the latter’s entire platform, which could be a more grievous political wound to Trump than anything else we’ve seen so far.

What Pence Said

Pence certainly did address 1/6/2021 as a matter of “a fundamental difference” between the two men. Again, he could have stopped there. He didn’t.

I mean, the reason that I – I cannot in good conscience endorse Donald Trump this year also has to do with the fact that he is walking away not just from keeping faith with the Constitution on that day, but also, Margaret, with a commitment to fiscal responsibility, a commitment … to the sanctity of life, a – a commitment to American leadership in the world. I mean, the president’s reversal just in the last week on – on TikTok … following an administration where – where we literally changed the national consensus on China, is the reason why I – after a lot of reflection, I just concluded I – I cannot endorse the agenda that Donald Trump is carrying into this national debate.

That’s not just a personal beef. That’s a complete refutation of Trumpism 2024 from the right – or at least what the right used to be nine years ago.

In the time since, all numbers of pre-2015 conservatives of various stripes (fiscal, social, classical liberal, neoconservative, etc.) have said Trump isn’t a true conservative. His transactional nature managed to win over some – especially social conservatives like Pence. For Pence himself to cite economic and national security as reasons not to support Trump is a much bigger story than it is. No one represented the willingness of pre-Trump conservatives to deal with Trump more than Pence; he was Trump’s Vice President after all. Less than one election cycle later, Pence is now saying the deal is off.

How Democrats Should Respond

For now, most in the Biden camp are simply highlighting Pence’s refusal to back Trump as a consequence of January 6th – an understandable part of Biden’s democracy-in-peril message. There is, however, much greater opportunity here for the Democrats, with Pence himself showing the way.

Democrats really won’t want to run to the right of Trump on either social or economic issues – although Trump’s call for massive tariffs on imports requires some opposition. Matters of “a commitment to American leadership in the world” are something else again. Pence himself cited the TikTok example, one where he is now closer to Joe Biden than to Donald Trump. Ukraine is another example [2] of pre-Trump conservatives being closer to 2024 Democrats than to 2024 Republicans.

No one should expect Pence himself to support Biden. However, those who agree with him on national security matters were a major group of swing voters in 2020 and 2024. Mike Pence, of all people, just put the spotlight on them again.

Democrats should do more than simply use Pence’s non-endorsement as a way to bring up January 6th. They should use his comments on national security as a way to get those new swing voters over to their side. No pro-Ukraine, anti-CCP American, whatever their party, should vote for Donald Trump; all of them should vote for Joe Biden.

Regarding the first statement at least, those voters now have the ultimate in political cover.