Bold. Pretty close to the entire Republican Party has been in retreat on the issue since President Joe Biden backed GOP lawmakers into a corner during his State of the Union address.
Even the guy who penned the actual plan to sunset the programs, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, finally caved on the matter last week after spending an entire year fruitlessly trying to defend it. Scott has now explicitly excluded Social Security and Medicare from his plan to sunset all federal legislation every five years for congressional review. Certainly one of Scott’s considerations was the electoral viability of supporting cuts to the programs while representing a state with one of the highest number of seniors in the nation.
But if there's one thing we know about Pence, it's that he's a glutton for punishment, which brings us to his next political blunder. Instead of capitalizing on his role in certifying the 2020 election even as violent marauders sought to execute him, Pence is now fighting a subpoena issued by the special counsel investigating Trump's efforts overturn the election.
Pence's legal argument aside, his political play is clearly aimed at assuaging Trump's MAGA acolytes in hopes of winning over a precious slice of the very people who sought to kill him on Jan. 6, 2021. Not gonna happen—not now, not ever.
It's true that Pence has no good options for how to win the GOP nomination without ride-or-die Trumpers—roughly 30% of the GOP—who will never vote for him, but there's also no way to change the reality that he is persona non grata with them. The smarter play is to actually distinguish oneself by standing for something. On Jan. 6, Pence placed his oath of office and fidelity to the Constitution above Trump, and he could proudly do the same here. Instead, he's the chosen the path of a weasel too weak to earn to the respect of pro-democracy conservatives as he panders to a crowd that despises him anyway.
But one issue where Pence has firmly planted his flag also happens to be the issue that almost singlehandedly saved Democrats in the midterms: Abortion. Without the nationwide fallout over the Supreme Court nullifying a woman’s right to basic and sometimes lifesaving reproductive care, Republicans would likely control the Senate today.
Nonetheless, Pence unequivocally favors banning abortion in "every state in the land," whether that comes by means of state-level efforts or a national abortion ban at the federal level.
Just this month, Pence grabbed headlines again on abortion when Jezebel obtained audio of him at a book signing event saying abortion pills must be banned. Here’s the exchange:
Man: Are you thinking about what to do about abortion pills? Would you like to ban those?
Pence: To me, it’s … I’m pro-life, and I think that’s a real issue and it’s really dangerous. Really dangerous.
Man: I think you can ban them though, don’t you think?
Pence: Uh you can, and we need to. We need to. My daughter’s written a lot about it, she writes for The Daily Wire.
Man: Oh she does?
Pence: Look up Charlotte Pence Bond, she’s done a lot of really important writing on that topic.
Pence is now squarely on the wrong side of two of the biggest hot-button political issues in the country, either one of which could easily doom his candidacy. In the primary, putting Social Security and Medicare back on the chopping block is a killer with Republicans' elderly base voters. But it’s also a killer in the general election, as is supporting a nationwide ban on abortion and abortion pills—a surefire way to alienate a decisive majority of voters, particularly in swing states.
“There are some in our party who might not want to talk about the issue [of abortion], but he thinks we should take our case to the people and explain why we champion life,” Marc Short, a longtime Pence adviser, recently told Politico.
Pence is now two-for-two on championing issues that almost no other Republicans with presidential ambitions want to discuss at length.
In the meantime, Pence is busy trashing his one opportunity to paint himself as a genuine hero on Jan. 6.
It's almost hard to imagine developing a worse platform and strategy to kick off a presidential run. But if someone is capable of building on it, it is most definitely Mike Pence.
Yes, electing the president by popular vote is possible! Joining us on this week's episode of The Downballot is former Vermont legislator Christopher Pearson, an official with National Popular Vote, the organization advocating for states to adopt a compact that would award their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who gets the most votes nationwide. Pearson walks us through the mechanics of the compact, debunks some common misconceptions, and lays out future steps toward hitting the required 270 electoral votes for the agreement to come into force.
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