This reminds me of Jonathan Last’s clever suggestion that House and Senate Dems force a vote on a resolution honoring Pence for having done the right thing on the day of the insurrection. Everyone knows that most Republican leaders privately support what Pence did. So why not force them to go on the record?
Turn it into a wedge issue, the same way Democrats did yesterday with their new gay marriage bill. Some congressional Republicans would support the resolution, which would anger the MAGA base. Other congressional Republicans would be afraid to anger that base and would vote no, handing Dems a talking point before the midterms about how the insurrection is still ongoing. That might make some swing voters who are leaning Republican this year think twice. Last:
About one-third of Republican voters have a relatively clear-eyed view of what happened on January 6. About one-fifth of Republican voters know that Joe Biden won a sacred landslide victory over Trump in 2020. About one in 20 Republican voters prefers Pence to Trump for 2024.
Democrats ought to be trying to pry these voters away from the Republican Party in the event that Trump runs again. By making it clear that the Democratic Party appreciates Mike Pence as a hero of democracy—and that GOP lawmakers do not—they might just persuade a small but crucial percentage of these Pence Republicans to cross over in 2024.
If the Dems ever end up doing this, they need to keep the resolution as simple as possible. The more convoluted it gets, the more MAGA Republicans in the Congress will find some ticky-tack objection in the phrasing as an excuse to vote no without repudiating Pence’s actions. One line: “The Congress recognizes that former vice president Mike Pence did the right thing on January 6, 2021 by certifying Joe Biden’s victory.” Let’s get a roll call.
As I say, plenty of GOPers in the House are willing to express their admiration for Pence behind closed doors, as the man himself found out today. He paid a visit to the Republican Study Committee chaired by fellow Hoosier and Trump ally Jim Banks in order to signal that he’s interested in running for president. He was received warmly, even effusively by some.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) stood up during the meeting and told Pence: “I just want to say thank you for defending our Constitution. I’m happy to shout it from Mar-A-Lago to Bedminster … but I just want you to know how grateful we are,” two people in the room tell Axios.
Other members clapped after Roy finished speaking, one of the people in the room said…
“It’s outstanding. It really meets the moment,” Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) told reporters. “He’s always been an advocate for House Republicans, an advocate for the Republican Study committee.”
“The vice president is a real moral force in our party. He’s a real true leader, and he’s earned the respect of Republicans and other Americans all over this country,” Barr added.
“People thanked him for his courage and doing the right thing,” said Rep. Don Bacon to reporters after the meeting. Per Politico, “Another GOP lawmaker leaving the meeting remarked how popular Pence is with the Republican conference, which comes as he has worked to rebuild his image in the wake of the former president’s attacks.”
Here’s Barr describing the meeting to reporters afterward. Pence shared a copy of his new “Freedom Agenda” with committee members, a solid sign that he’s planning to run in 2024 and ready to ask for their support:
Congressman Andy Barr tells reporters after a Republican Study Committee meeting with Mike Pence that GOP lawmakers praised him for his conduct on January 6 pic.twitter.com/airF2Y08uC
— Liz Elkind (@liz_elkind) July 20, 2022
Bacon also claimed that “lawmakers offered Pence encouraging words about a potential presidential bid, saying they hope he plays a big role in 2024 and that they need more voices like his in the party.”
Is that so? A question, then: How many of the House Republicans who back-slapped Pence today do we think will endorse him over Trump in the 2024 primaries?
Ten, maybe? More? Fewer?
I’m not asking how many privately prefer Pence to Trump, which would be something like 80+ percent of the caucus. I’m asking how many would be willing to say so publicly.
I think I’d take the under on 10. And if I’m right, what are we to make of the sincerity of the caucus’s appreciation today for “defending our Constitution”? After all, it’s one thing to prefer Pence to Trump or Trump to Pence on policy grounds or as a matter of personality or what have you. But once the debate is framed as a matter of one man being willing to defend the Constitution from the other’s insistence on violating it, the choice between the two should be clear.
And yet, the great majority of them will endorse Trump. Which means either they’re insincere when they claim to care about the Constitution or they’re cowards who care less about it than their own job security.
I wonder what Pence was thinking as he looked out at them applauding for him at the meeting. Was he grateful? Or did he know how hollow it was, remembering that a majority of the House caucus voted to object to certifying the election even after Pence had narrowly escaped death on January 6 in the course of doing his duty? How much can they realistically care about defending our Constitution if they’re still proud members of the “Hang Mike Pence” party led by the guy who placed Pence in harm’s way to begin with?
Of course, Pence himself is still a member so maybe he didn’t think anything when they started cheering for him. After all, no one understands what it means to be a Trump-era Republican like a guy who did everything Trump asked of him for four years, including quietly tolerating the entire “stop the steal” scheme until the moment it fell to him to see it through.
I’ll leave you with this new poll from Morning Consult as a reminder that there is one Republican who could conceivably beat Trump in a primary, but it’s not Mike Pence.
The gap between Ron DeSantis and the rest of the potential field is widening rapidly 🚀 pic.twitter.com/gdGFuvEdNA
— Echelon Insights (@EchelonInsights) July 20, 2022