Don’t blink, you might miss it: a Republican actually criticizing twice-impeached, criminally indicted, and liable-for-sexual-abuse former President Donald Trump.
During his presidential campaign announcement on Wednesday, Mike Pence did not shy away from the bare minimum of saying that Trump’s actions related to the January 6 attack on the Capitol disqualify him from the White House.
“My former running mate continues to insist that I had the right to overturn the election. But President Trump was wrong then, and he’s wrong now,” Trump’s former vice president said.
“Anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States, and anyone who asks someone else to put them over the Constitution should never be president again.”
Pence’s remarks come while he’s also aiming to position himself as the most conservative candidate in the race—looking to ban abortion outright, openly calling for cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare, and embracing military hawkishness. Pence conceptualizes it all as a resurgent “Reagan coalition,” a plan that may only somewhat work at chipping away at Trump, who has commanded a lead over many conservatives who romanticize Reagan’s destructive legacy.
In the past, Pence has maintained some posture of benevolence toward Trump, reiterating his commitment to honoring the Constitution rather than focusing directly on Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. He has also written glowing anecdotes about the former president, called Trump’s indictment “political persecution,” and repeatedly refused to testify in the House investigation against Trump.
Pence’s comments today portend some more awareness that his best shot at losing less badly, if not somehow winning, is by actually going after Trump. Time will tell whether he’ll stick to his guns or balk at the first sign of adversity.