Republican presidential candidate and former Vice President Mike Pence speaks with the media during a stop at the Indiana State Fair on Wednesday in Indianapolis.Republican presidential candidate and former Vice President Mike Pence speaks with the media during a stop at the Indiana State Fair on Wednesday in Indianapolis.Thirty-one months after Donald Trump’s mob tried to murder him for refusing to participate in his boss’s coup attempt, former Vice President Mike Pence is finally making his fidelity to the Constitution a main feature of his own presidential campaign.“Let’s be clear on this point.
… The president specifically asked me, and his gaggle of crackpot lawyers asked me, to literally reject votes,” he told Fox News on Wednesday — a dramatic change in tone from as late as last month, when he was saying he hoped the Justice Department would not indict Trump for his actions leading up to and during the Jan.
6, 2021, attack on the U.S.
Capitol.Trump was arraigned in federal court Thursday on four felony charges on an indictment in which Pence’s grand jury testimony played a leading role.“The American people deserve to know that President Trump and his advisers didn’t just ask me to pause.
They asked me to reject votes … essentially to overturn the  election.
And to keep faith with the oath that I made to the American people and to Almighty God, I rejected that out of hand,” Pence said on Fox.The new tone, though, may be too little, too late.Less than three weeks from the first Republican primary debate, Pence sits at 5% in the polls, compared with 53% for Trump, and still has not collected the necessary 40,000 unique donors to qualify for the event.
Even worse, a majority of GOP voters now believe Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him, and that his efforts to overturn the results were therefore justified.“The simple fact is that a huge majority of GOPers believe that [Joe] Biden didn’t win this election.
To them, Pence’s comments fall on deaf ears,” said Republican pollster Neil Newhouse.“I’m glad he’s doing it.
It’s probably the only thing he can do to stand up for himself, but it’s not a path to the nomination,” said David Kochel, a veteran Republican strategist from Iowa.
“Until you get a much larger group speaking out on this, and really flood conservative media with consistent criticism, you’ll never be able to convince the base that Trump isn’t a victim.”Story continuesWhile Pence has long said Trump was wrong to claim that his vice president had the unilateral authority to award him a second term despite having lost, only this week — after Trump was indicted for the underlying plot — has Pence put his actions that day front and center.Marc Short, a top Pence adviser who, as his chief of staff at the White House, also faced physical danger from Trump’s mob on Jan.
6, said Pence is not offering any new facts.
The much-discussed “contemporaneous notes” mentioned in the new indictment, for example, were the basis of Pence’s narrative in his recent memoir, “So Help Me God.”Short, though, acknowledged that Pence is now more aggressively defending his own actions from Trump’s continued lies.
“He’s leaning into this.
He’s saying, ‘Hell no, I did exactly what I was supposed to do,’” Short stated.In a question-and-answer session Wednesday, the day after the indictment was made public, Pence gave his most vociferous defense of his actions to date.“While I made my case to what I understood my Constitution to require, the president ultimately continued to demand that I choose him over the Constitution,” he told reporters at the Indiana State Fair.
“What the president maintained that day, and frankly, has said over and over again over the last two and a half years, is completely false.”Indeed, Pence and his campaign decided to turn a line from the indictment, said to him by Trump as a criticism, into a badge of honor.
Baseball caps and T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Too honest” are up for sale on his website — a move that also attempts to draw a contrast with a president famous for his constant lying.But if Pence failed to speak up early and loudly enough, other Republican leaders were even more timid.Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, while he blasted Trump on the chamber floor and said the criminal justice system would eventually hold him accountable, within weeks of Jan.
6 persuaded enough of his fellow Senate Republicans not to find Trump guilty after the House had impeached him for inciting the insurrection.
Had McConnell, of Kentucky, voted to convict, he would almost certainly have brought along another nine, providing enough to convict Trump and allow a second vote to ban him from federal office for life.House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, of California, went even further to avoid getting on Trump’s bad side, flying to his South Florida country club to make amends just three weeks after Trump’s followers invaded his Capitol office.And at the Republican National Committee, which was holding its winter meeting in Florida on Jan.
6, members gave Trump a long ovation when he called in to a breakfast the following morning.
To this day, the RNC chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, has failed to criticize Trump’s behavior on and leading up to Jan.
According to the new indictment, she even took part in setting up the fake elector scheme that became a key step in Trump’s coup plot.As a result, when Trump resumed lying about how the 2020 election had been “stolen” from him during the Conservative Political Action Conference just seven weeks after Jan.
6, few if any GOP leaders refuted him publicly, effectively letting his false, revisionist history of that day become canon within the Republican Party.“That Jan.
6th through 20th period stands out as having been the best opportunity to jettison Trump permanently via collective action,” said Fergus Cullen, a former New Hampshire state GOP chair.
“And they blew it.”Kochel puts more of the blame on right-wing media, which remained decidedly pro-Trump through Jan.
6 and remains so today.
“Look, nobody thought Trump would recover from all of that.
People assumed he’d done himself in with most Republicans,” Kochel said.
“Conservative media brought him back.
They can’t get enough of his ability to drive ratings and attention.”David Axelrod, the Democratic consultant who helped Barack Obama win the White House in 2008, said he’s not sure it would have made a difference, even if party leaders had, in a unified voice, ostracized Trump.
“But they made a judgment that the base was with Trump and it was too risky to defy him,” Axelrod said.He added that Pence trying to turn his actions to his advantage now only makes sense.
“Pence has nothing to lose.
Trump branded him as a traitor for doing his duty, and that stigma has stuck,” Axelrod said.
“If he is going to be savaged for his act of courage, he should at least own it and get whatever upside he can. The cautious, halfway approach only made him look weak and political.”Jennifer Horn, another former GOP state chair from New Hampshire, is less willing to credit Pence now after his years of defending Trump’s behavior in the White House.
“Mike Pence wants history to see him as a hero of democracy for his actions on Jan.
The problem is that it was the only time in four years that he did what was right,” she said.
“History will remember his weakness, his four years of silence, his protection of Trump, all of which allowed Jan.
6 to happen.”