On Wednesday, the newly Chris Licht-free CNN held another one of their town halls for Republican presidential candidates. (After all, it went so great the first time.) This time it was Mike Pence’s turn. Earlier that day, Donald Trump’s former vice president, who he (remorselessly) almost got killed, formally announced his campaign, which he did by slamming his former superior. Pence used his time to slightly back off (or dance around) some of his more bold attacks. But at the end, he made a confident, one could say naïve prediction: Donald Trump will not be the nominee — despite currently crushing it in the polls.
Bash: You just spent a lot of time both here and earlier today explaining why you think that the former president did not uphold his oath to the constitution. So, then how can you say that you would support him if he's the nominee? pic.twitter.com/j8RxEqyX2q
— Acyn (@Acyn) June 8, 2023
As CNN’s latest GOP town hall wound down, Pence reiterated something he’d said earlier: that no matter what, he’d support whoever became the Republican nominee in 2024. That seemed to contradict what he’d said during his campaign announcement, namely that Donald Trump should never, ever, ever be allowed back in the White House. To her credit, moderator Dana Bash pursued this line of questioning, asking him, “How can you say that you support him if he’s the nominee?”
But Pence had a smart answer at the ready: “Well, because I don’t think Donald Trump is going to be the nominee.”
Bash didn’t let it go, quickly asking him, “But what if he is?”
Pence was adamant, reiterating, “I don’t think he’s going to be the nominee.”
“But what if he is?” Bash pressed.
So Pence elaborated. “I have great confidence in Republican primary voters,” he said. “We have a field of strong and experienced candidates that grew up one today. And I truly do believe that people here in Iowa are going to recognize the challenges that we’re facing and understand that different times call for different leadership.
“The American people don’t look backwards. We look forward,” Pence continued. “And I truly do believe that, whatever the polls show, whatever the pundits are saying, that when the time comes the people of Iowa are going to take a fresh look at all of us that have stepped forward. I don’t think my old running mate is going to be the Republican nominee for president, and I’m very confident — very confident — that I’ll be able to support the Republican nominee for president of the United States.”
He then shrugged and said, “And I hope it’s me.”
Of course, Republican candidates and pundits and anyone from the pre-Trump GOP were saying much the same thing in 2015 and 2016: that the American people would reject the guy from The Apprentice. And the American people sure do look backwards. Trump’s slang, in 2016 and now, is about returning America to some perceived former glory.
In other words, in trying to appear confident about something that very well could happen — and if the polls from today hold into next fall, it’ll definitely happen — Pence looked even weaker than when he spent two-plus years not trashing the guy who, again, almost got him killed.