Mike Pence Memoir Could Define Him for 2024, but Donald Trump Looms Large
Mike Pence has an opportunity to guide the narrative of his political career thus far with his upcoming memoir. And with the first of two parts due for release in 2023, the book is perfectly timed for a potential presidential run the next year.
However, as with much U.S. politics in recent years, perceptions of the former vice president will also be framed through the lens of his old boss: Donald Trump.
“Memoirs are always an opportunity for authors to spin history in a way that’s most favorable to them—and Pence’s will be no exception,” Thomas Gift, lecturer in political science and founding director of the Centre on U.S. Politics at University College London, told Newsweek.
“He will use the book to try to burnish his image, to champion his own cause, and to emphasize his role in the achievements of the Trump presidency, while downplaying his role in its many scandals.
“There’s no doubt that Pence will try to use his memoirs to tell ‘his side’ of the story.”
What that story will be, though, is anyone’s guess, and the specter of Trump could influence the lines Pence decides to take.
“The big question is what he wants ‘his side’ of the story to be,” Gift said.
“If Pence still harbors White House ambitions, he will be forced to walk the same tightrope as before: Sufficiently distancing himself from Trump to appeal to moderates and independents, while not throwing Trump under the bus to the point where he destroys his reputation with the GOP base.
“That’s never been an easy task, and it won’t get any easier as the dust from the Trump years settles and Pence reflects on his next political move.
“Ultimately, Pence may have to decide who he wants the audience of his memoirs to be: Posterity or the 2024 MAGA voter.”
While using the book as a 2024 platform could be beneficial, there is a downside when writing in advance of it: The playing field remains unclear.
“The campaign book is a specialist genre all of its own,” Jon Herbert, senior lecturer in the school of social, political and global studies at Keele University and a co-author of The Ordinary Presidency of Donald J. Trump, told Newsweek.
“They’re very much used to write a favored, and strategically useful, version of history. It’s quite clear that there are decisions in them about how the candidate-in-waiting wishes to be seen and it would be an opportunity missed if Pence didn’t take it.
“The problem is, though, that they’re written before the campaign and without full knowledge of the strategic context the candidate will face. That creates problems.
“The first is for the reader; they can be very dull. The second is for the candidate: the goalposts can then move, depending on a changing strategic context for the campaign, and the candidate is lumbered with a book that doesn’t address that context very well.
“With Trump flirting with a run and very different contexts depending whether he runs or not, it’s going to be a difficult book to write.”
Pence is tipped as a potential frontrunner for the Republican presidential candidacy in 2024, though polling has placed him behind former President Trump if he opts for another shot at the White House.
Trump has suggested he could run again, though has not committed to doing so.
The news of Pence’s memoir comes as he launches an advocacy group, Advancing American Freedom—which describes itself as aiming to promote and defend “the successful policies of recent years that yielded unprecedented prosperity at home and restored America’s strength abroad, while elevating traditional American values.”
Andrew Wroe, a senior lecturer in American Politics at the University of Kent, told Newsweek he feels the actions combined point towards a future run.
“It was interesting to see that news about Pence’s book deal coincided with his launch of a new 501 organization, Advancing American Freedom,” Wroe said.
“He’s clearly thinking about a presidential run in 2024 and a book in 2023 nicely frames that.
“On its face, it provides an opportunity to define himself to the GOP primary electorate and the wider American public after being in Trump’s shadow for the past four years. But my view is that the politics are not in his favor.”
Wroe also emphasized the tightrope of keeping Trump supporters onside while shirking certain links to the former president. Wroe thinks Pence is in a bind he will struggle to escape.
“He’s too anti-Trump for the GOP base and too pro-Trump for the American electorate,” Wroe said. “He’s history, book or no book.”
John Owens, a professor of United States government and politics in the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster, similarly told Newsweek he does not think the memoir will help Pence if he does harbor 2024 ambitions.
“Right now, there remains a strong possibility Trump will run again in 2024, and if he does he will win the nomination. If he does not, the alternative field is uncertain,” Owens said.
“Despite having been Trump’s vice president, I doubt Trump’s loyalists regard Pence as one of them.
“He was chosen by Trump as his running mate to solidify the traditional conservative wing of the party, which has been significantly eclipsed, especially after the insurrection.
“Given the party’s support for Trump’s Big Lie, that the election was stolen, and Pence’s role in ‘allowing’ the Senate certification of the 2020 Electoral College results, to say the least Pence will have an uphill struggle with the base, especially with Trump out there commenting on the candidates.”
Shifting tack ahead of 2024 might be a struggle for Pence because many people already have firm opinions firm on him, but he could use the opportunity to increase the focus on his strengths.
“He’s been in public life for decades, and he’s in his 60s, so I wouldn’t see him reinventing himself for 2024,” Clodagh Harrington, associate professor in American politics at De Montfort University, told Newsweek.
“His strengths are what he has played on all along. His religious faith is genuine, his marriage, like his conservatism, is real. So those are the cards I think he would play.
“Yes he was loyal to Trump, but he can explain that to GOPers by playing up the loyalty-to-the-leader aspect of that, rather than the fawning-to-Trump side.”
While appealing to different factions in the GOP might be difficult, Pence may see himself as in a strong position to do so.
A source close to the former vice president previously told Newsweek: “There is no other Republican that has bona fides with both the Make America Great Again group of voters—the former Vice President championed President Trump’s agenda and served loyally for all four years—and the traditional conservative wing of the party.”
Newsweek has contacted Pence’s office for comment on his upcoming memoir and on the prospect of a future run for office. Pence’s autobiography is to come out in two books, the first due in 2023, according to publishers Simon & Schuster.
“I am grateful to have the opportunity to tell the story of my life in public service to the American people, from serving in Congress, to the Indiana Governor’s office and as Vice President of the United States,” Pence said in a press release on Monday.
The release described the memoir as “covering his trajectory from Columbus, IN, to his time as the second-highest ranking official in the Trump Administration.”
“Pence will address the many pivotal moments of the administration, from the time he was selected to run as Vice President through Inauguration Day on January 20, 2021,” the release added.
Published at Fri, 09 Apr 2021 14:54:09 +0000