Pence allies launching super PAC to back former vice president's expected 2024 candidacy

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FILE - Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a luncheon Friday, April 28, 2023, in Salt Lake City. Allies of Pence are launching a new super PAC to support his expected candidacy for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. "Committed to America" will be the official Pence-sanctioned outside group, according to sources familiar with the project, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share details of the planning and strategy. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

NEW YORK – Allies of former Vice President Mike Pence are launching a new super PAC to support his expected candidacy for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

“Committed to America,” the Pence-sanctioned group, publicly launches Tuesday, according to people familiar with the project, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share details of the planning and strategy.

“The country’s at real crossroads and the Republican Party needs a strong conservative candidate who can win,” said Scott Reed, the longtime GOP consultant, who will co-chair the group. “Pence has the experience, the unparalleled character, communication skills and the conservative credentials to win both the nomination and a general election.”

The launch is the latest sign that Pence is moving ahead with his expected bid for the GOP nomination — a move that would put him in direct contention with his former boss, former President Donald Trump. Pence has said he will announce his plans “well before late June” and aides have been discussing potential launch dates for a campaign as early as May, but more likely in June. In the meantime, Pence has kept a busy schedule of visits to early-voting states, policy speeches and media interviews as he gears up for a run.

The new group will be co-chaired by Reed, who previously served as political director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and managed Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign. Joining him will be former Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, who developed a close friendship with Pence when they served in the House and is a former chair of the House Republican Conference.

Serving as executive director will be Bobby Saparow, who managed Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s winning 2022 reelection campaign. Kemp defeated his Trump-endorsed challenger, former Sen. David Perdue, by more than 50 points. Trump had targeted Kemp as retribution for the governor's refusal to go along with his desperate attempts to overturn his defeat in the state's 2020 presidential election — a plot that is now under investigation and expected to yield multiple indictments.

Mike Ricci, who previously served as communications director to former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, will oversee communications.

Pence faces an uphill battle to the nomination with much of the attention and fundraising focused so far on Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is planning his own entry into the race in the coming weeks. The field also includes former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott has formed a presidential exploratory committee and is expected to formally launch his campaign next week.

The new Pence group is animated by the belief that while the former congressman, talk radio host, Indiana governor and vice president of the United States is widely known by voters, their perceptions are mostly colored by his time as Trump's ever-loyal second-in-command.

They believe that if people are reminded of his experience, his character and his conservative credentials, they will embrace his candidacy.

“People know Mike Pence, they just don’t know him well,” Reed said. “This campaign is going to reintroduce Mike Pence to the country as his own man, not as vice president, but as a true economic, social and national security conservative — a Reagan conservative.”

The group sees early-voting Iowa as critical for Pence and plans to launch their efforts there before expanding to other states, including New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

“We’re going to organize Iowa, all 99 counties, like we’re running him for county sheriff,” said Reed.

They note a large portion of caucus-voters identify as Evangelical Christians, and believe Pence, a born-again Evangelical, staunch opponent of abortion rights, and a Midwesterner, will connect especially well in the state, which in previous years boosted the campaigns of fellow conservatives like Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. Ultimately, however, they all failed to win their party’s nomination after first-place caucus finishes.

The people familiar with the super PAC would not say how much money had been committed to the group by donors, but insisted that they will raise as much money as they need to spend.

The group intends to focus on building a data and paid ground operation dedicated to turning people out to vote for Pence, citing Kemp’s campaign as a model.

“We are going to do something very similar,” Saparow said. “You will see that what we built out with Gov. Kemp is going to be taken to the national stage. So we will also be doing a very extensive paid voter contact program through Committed to America."

“There is a recipe and there is a roadmap of success that I’ve worked on in the past that I believe we’ll be able to replicate with the vice president," he added.

They also spoke specifically of Pence's role on Jan. 6, 2021, when he resisted Trump's pressure campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 election — a power that Pence, as vice president, never possessed. Pence had been proceeding over a joint session of Congress to certify President Joe Biden's win when a violent mob of Trump's supporters broke into the Capitol, smashing windows, ramming through doors and clashing with police. Pence was rushed to safety in a Senate loading dock as some outside the building chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!”

The people said they believe voters will be drawn to Pence's defense of the Constitution. Yet it remains unclear how salient that position will be in a party still dominated by the former president. A large swath of Trump's base will never forgive Pence for his actions that day, while many Trump critics see the former vice president as complicit in Trump's most divisive actions.

A Quinnipiac University national poll released in May found 36% of Republicans nationwide view Pence unfavorably -- a higher unfavorable rating than Trump or DeSantis.