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Pence on Trump in 2024: ‘There might be somebody else I’d prefer’

Asked on Oct. 19 about supporting former president Donald Trump in 2024, former vice president Mike Pence said, “There might be somebody else I’d prefer more.” (Video: The Washington Post)
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Once upon a time, they ran the country together. Now former vice president Mike Pence has suggested he might not lend his support to his old boss, Donald Trump, if Trump runs in the next presidential election.

Asked whether he’d back Trump in 2024, Pence took a long pause and, with a wry smile, told an audience at Georgetown University late Wednesday: “Well, there might be somebody else I’d prefer more.”

It’s possibly the heaviest hint yet that the former veep might put himself in the running instead — fueling the possibility of a clash that has been the subject of Washington speculation since the tensions between the two leaders in the last days of the Trump administration.

Shrugging off applause, Pence continued, “What I can tell you is, I have every confidence that the Republican Party is going to sort out leadership. All my focus has been on the midterm elections, and it’ll stay that way for the next 20 days.”

“But after that, we’ll be thinking about the future, ours and the nation’s,” he added. “I’ll keep you posted.”

Over the summer, Trump has made it less of a question of if, but rather when, he would announce his bid. “In my own mind, I’ve already made that decision,” he told New York magazine.

Pence, who has largely stayed away from overtly criticizing Trump, refers to his time at the White House as “the Trump-Pence administration” and has undertaken an aggressive travel schedule to early 2024 primary and caucus states, particularly South Carolina and Iowa.

However, he is also walking a fine line, having criticized Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election but still campaigning with Republicans ahead of the midterm elections who have embraced Trump’s falsehoods about it.

Pence’s Jan. 6 tightrope: Owning his role while courting Trump voters

Trump supporters have called Pence a “traitor” for carrying out his ceremonial duty to certify Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, 2021. Rioters in the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol that day chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” He said he feared for his and his family’s safety as they hid near the Senate floor.

Trump has said bluntly: “Mike committed political suicide by not taking votes that he knew were wrong.”

But Pence has hit back. “President Trump is wrong,” he said in February in Florida. “I had no right to overturn the election.”

Judge bucks Trump, orders Pence aide to testify to Jan. 6 grand jury

Political pundits have noted that Pence isn’t yet making opposition to Trump a core part of his political brand.

Instead, he has been keen to talk about policies, notably immigration and border control. Earlier Wednesday, he spoke at the conservative Heritage Foundation and called out “apologists” for Russian President Vladimir Putin within the Republican Party. He also chided those who have argued against U.S. defense funding for Ukraine.

And Pence again hinted at his own ambitions, noting that the United States was “on the cusp of a new era of Republican leadership.” Republicans, he said, can’t “allow our movement to be led astray by the siren song of unprincipled populism that’s unmoored from our oldest traditions and most cherished values.”

Far-right UCLA student who sat in Pence’s Senate seat on Jan. 6 sentenced

At the Georgetown event, Pence told the audience he “frankly always had a good relationship” with President Biden, although he said he couldn’t “identify a policy that I agree with.” Pence added: “I think you can say that somebody’s ideas are bad without saying they’re a bad person.”

Of Vice President Harris, Pence also took a moderate approach: “We got strong differences, but look, I literally respect everyone. I don’t care what your politics are if you’re willing to stand up and put your name on a ballot because you love this country — you have my respect.”

Isaac Arnsdorf, John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro contributed to this report