When it comes to being elected president of the United States, there’s one path toward office that has worked for six men who’ve tried it since World War II: becoming vice president first. As MSNBC’s Katie Phang pointed out Saturday morning, with that in mind, Mike Pence should be leading the Republican candidates in the 2024 race. But he’s currently splitting last place with Nikki Haley.
If you ask former Pence senior advisor Olivia Troye, there’s one reason why: Donald Trump. Phang asked Troye if it’s time for Pence and his fellow candidates to “take a page out of the Chris Christie playbook” and “come out swinging” against Trump — Troye replied with an emphatic, “Well, you know, Yes.”
Troye continued, “I think part of the reason Mike Pence got a bump after the debate is the fact that he came out swinging. That was the most sort of aggressive and personality that we’ve seen from Mike Pence in a while, when it comes to being more forceful in terms of where he stands on things and being more forceful about the events of Jan. 6 more publicly like that on stage.”
At the first Republican primary debate on Aug. 24, the typically reserved Pence often spoke over other candidates and was especially confrontational toward entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. He came out of the debate with over 12 minutes of talking time, the most of any of the candidates, and surprised conservative commentator Megyn Kelly, who tweeted, “I did not have ‘Mike Pence will keep things spicy’ on my debate Bingo card.”
I did not have “Mike Pence will keep things spicy” on my debate Bingo card
— Megyn Kelly (@megynkelly) August 24, 2023
Pence’s numbers boost following the debate was small, but impactful. Now, Troye said, the game becomes about “whether he can maintain that momentum and continue down that path.”
Of course, there are bigger fish to fry. Troye went on to point out a major problem heading into 2024: “The majority of Republican voters right now believe that the 2020 election was stolen, which is… disheartening.” For the Pence campaign, the challenge will be in convincing those voters that certifying the election, rather than listening to his boss and overturning it, was the only course of action he could have taken.
Phang was interested in the point, but also insisted on making a clarification. As she put it, “Mike Pence is no hero. He did what he was supposed to do on Jan. 6, but he was also one of the candidates that raised their hand when asked during that debate if they would support Donald Trump if he was nominated, even if he’s convicted.
“So why should Americans think that Mike Pence would actually be able to lead America and defend it, and defend democracy, if he can’t even say on a stage where Donald Trump isn’t even there that he won’t support Donald Trump if Donald Trump is convicted?” she asked.
Indeed, Pence has repeatedly insisted that voters should be left to decide if Trump should be allowed to run for office.
Troye agreed with Phang’s question and suggested that each of the candidates should have to respond. As she put it, “I think that was the most deplorable moment of the evening.”