But first, breaking news from across the pond: British Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned this morning, after just 44 days in office. Her brief tenure was marked by chaos, as she unveiled and quickly abandoned a tax plan that sent markets spiraling.
She will now go down as the shortest-serving prime minister in British history. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming:
Is there room for Mike Pence in today’s GOP?
With the 48th vice president right in front of them, several Georgetown students who lined up to ask a question when Mike Pence visited campus on Wednesday beat around the bush or sugarcoated their more pointed queries.
But George Clay, a Ph.D. candidate in history, didn’t mince words when it was his turn at the mic. “Mr. Pence,” he asked directly, “if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president in 2024, will you vote for him?”
Pence paused for a second, as the crowd tittered with uncomfortable laughter. “Well, there might be somebody else I prefer more,” he answered, before leaning back and flashing a smile, clearly pleased with himself.
Unlike some of his political contemporaries — Donald Trump and Joe Biden come to mind — Mike Pence is a carefully guarded speaker. Most every word is planned, and few come as surprising. In speech after speech, he tells the same stories and the same jokes, with the exact same intonation each time.
Which is why it was interesting that he chose to let slip that answer, his clearest signal yet that he’ll be running for president in 2024.
Pence’s Georgetown talk was advertised as a speech on the “future of the conservative movement” — but at times it seemed like more of a pitch for “the future of Mike Pence.” It’s unclear that a sizable bloc of Republicans views the two futures as one and the same, as Pence clearly does.
In his speech at Georgetown and one earlier in the day at the Heritage Foundation, Pence sketched out his version of conservatism and the Republican Party. But when put against the opinions of today’s GOP, more than a few tenets of his doctrine appear outdated.
➞ Ukraine: At Heritage, Pence declared that “there can be no room in the conservative movement for apologists to Putin,” adding that Republicans “who would have us disengaged with the wider world” are practicing “appeasement.”
- But, in addition to Trump’s praise for Putin, GOP support for aiding Ukraine in its war against Russia appears to be waning. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican, warned this week that his conference won’t support writing “a blank check to Ukraine” if its wins the majority next month.
- A recent Pew Research poll found that a plurality of Republicans — 32% — believe the U.S. is providing “too much” support for Ukraine. (30% said the amount of support was “about right,” 16% said it was “not enough,” and the rest weren’t sure.)
➞ January 6: Asked by another Georgetown student about the Capitol riot, Pence called January 6 “tragic” and said the violence that day was “unacceptable.”
- Once again, the bulk of Republicans disagree. According to a Monmouth poll from August, 53% of Republicans believe the “incident at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021” could be called a “legitimate protest.” 50% said it was “not appropriate” to “describe this incident as a riot.”
- In fact, the party’s official line is that January 6 was “legitimate political discourse,” as declared by a Republican National Committee resolution approved earlier this year.
➞ Party identity: “Conservatism is bigger than any one moment, any one election, any one person,” Pence told the assembled students at Georgetown. “It’s always been about ideas.”
- But for many in the party, being a Republican, at least, is about just one person. NBC News has periodically polled Republicans on whether they consider themselves to be “more of a supporter of Donald Trump or more of a supporter o the Republican Party.”
- In August’s version, 41% said they were more supporters of Trump — less than the 50% who said they supported the party, but a significant shift from May of this year, the last time the question was asked. Then, 34% said they were mostly Trump supporters and 58% said they were aligned with the party.
And then, of course, there’s Pence’s standing in polls of the 2024 Republican presidential primary. In the New York Times/Siena survey released this week, 47% of likely Republican primary voters said they would vote for Trump if the primary were held today, followed by 28% who said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Pence comes in third, but with 7% — not nearly enough to win a presidential nod. Looking at the crosstabs, Pence comes in first among just two demographics: those who voted for Biden in 2020 voters and those who identify as Democrats. Not exactly a recipe for success in the Republican Party. (According to the poll, 2% of likely Republican primary voters identify as Democrats; 8% voted for Biden.)
Faced with that brutal data set, Pence is adapting himself to stay above water in the party. With a remarkable 51% of Republican congressional and statewide candidates denying or questioning the 2020 election results, Pence has opted to grace a few of them with his endorsement, including Senate candidates Don Bolduc in New Hampshire and Blake Masters in Arizona.
Pence even headlined a fundraiser last month with Georgia lieutenant governor candidate Burt Jones, who was one of Trump’s “fake electors” in the state in 2020. Pence, of course, refused to take part in that scheme on January 6.
The end result is a posture that pleases nobody. He’s despised on the MAGA right (with the “hang Mike Pence” chants to prove it). His 2022 endorsements have made the “never Trump” middle despondent: “The party’s over,” anti-Trump Republican activist Sarah Longwell wrote in The Bulwark this week, noting how Pence, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, and others have endorsed election deniers.
And, of course, many Democrats will never forgive him for his past association with Trump and his record on social issues. As evidence, a small group of Georgetown students walked out of the ex-VP’s speech on Wednesday, some waving Pride flags. (Pence took it in stride, pointedly adding “walking out on people that might have a different point of view” to the examples of the “woke agenda” that he had been in the middle of listing.)
But every answer Pence gave on Wednesday suggested that he’ll give it a go in 2024 anyways, even if that likely means a confrontation with his former ticket-mate.
“I have every confidence that the Republican Party’s gonna sort out its leadership,” he said, continuing his answer on whether he’d vote for Trump in 2024. “All my focus has been on the midterm elections and it’ll stay that way for the next 20 days. After that, we’ll be thinking about our future: ours and the nation’s.”
“I’ll keep you posted, okay?”
🚨 More news you should know
➞ Some Justice Department prosecutors investigating Trump in the classified documents probe “believe there is sufficient evidence” to charge him with obstruction of justice, Bloomberg reports.
Any final decision on charges would have to be approved by Attorney General Merrick Garland and almost certainly wouldn’t come until after the midterms.
Meanwhile: A federal judge said Wednesday that Trump knew his claims of voter fraud “were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public.” The comments came in a ruling ordering former Trump lawyer John Eastman to hand over more emails to the House January 6th committee.
➞ The White House is doing all it can to avoid President Biden and Russian president Vladimir Putin meeting face-to-face at an international summit in Indonesia next month, per Politico. Both leaders are slated to attend the G-20 meeting.
➞ Democrats are growing more concerned about “soft support from Black and Latino men,” Axios reports, with party strategists fearing that lower-than-normal levels of support or turnout from the groups will lead to defeat in the midterms.
🗓 What your leaders are doing today
All times Eastern. Click on an event’s time to watch or listen to it.
President Biden will travel to Pennsylvania today. He’ll deliver remarks on infrastructure in Pittsburgh (2:15 pm) and participate in a fundraiser for Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman (7 pm) before returning to Washington.
Vice President Kamala Harris has nothing on her public schedule.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold a press gaggle aboard Air Force One during the flight to Pittsburgh.
The Senate will convene for a brief pro forma session (9 am). The House is on recess. Neither chamber is scheduled to hold any votes until November 14, after the midterms.
The Supreme Court will not meet today.
👋 Before I go...
Let’s end with something lighter. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has produced another breathtaking image from the cosmos, this one of the so-called “Pillars of Creation.”
I’ve shared previous photos from the telescope in this space before, so I wanted to draw your attention to the latest one. In the tweet below, you can see the new photo on the right — plus a comparison to the Hubble telescope’s photo of the same stars, showing you the new details that the Webb telescope was able to glean.
If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.
Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.