“Nobody likes Mike Pence,” at least according to the results of a recent focus group reported on by The Atlantic.
Lately, the former VP has been making little secret of his presidential ambitions. He’s written his book; he’s assembling his team; he’s mastered the art of the coy non-denial when somebody asks if he’s running. He hovers between 6 and 7 percent in early Republican-primary polls—not top-tier numbers, but respectable enough.
However, according to McKay Coppins, a reporter from the Atlantic who was invited to sit in on two focus groups consisting of Republican voters who’d supported Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020, “nobody likes” Trump’s former second in command.
The focus groups were organized by the political consultant Sarah Longwell. Throughout the sessions, Coppins struggled to find Pence supporters. “He’s only gonna get the vote from his family, and I’m not even sure if they like him,” one participant said. Some criticized Pence’s decision to “go along with all the other RINOs and Democrats” on January 6, while less MAGA-inclined Republicans thought Pence was too Trumpy.
Overall, “their casual dismissal of Pence’s wholesome, God-fearing, family-man persona is emblematic of a sea change in conservative politics—and a massive miscalculation by Pence himself,” Coppins continues.
Coppins said Trump supporters loathed Pence for not throwing out certified presidential election results. At the same time, more Trump-skeptical Republicans resent Pence for being so slavishly loyal to Trump for so long.
“I think this was the fundamental miscalculation that Mike Pence made,” he said. “He thought that by being incredibly loyal, incredibly willing to cover for Trump to defend Trump to offer fawning praise of trump throughout his presidency, he would win goodwill with the Trump base.”
In reality, argued Coppins, Pence came off to Republican voters of all stripes as an opportunist rather than as someone who could be counted on to do the right thing.
“Voters just don’t like that,” he said. “They want a candidate who they think is following his gut and doing what he thinks is right, and they don’t see that when they look at Mike Pence.”
Pence has not officially announced a run for the 2024 GOP nomination, but he has repeatedly teased an intention to do so. Perhaps realizing that “nobody likes him” might change his mind?