John Krull: Mike Pence takes his shot

Mike Pence had a moment the other day.

The Columbus native and former vice president of the United States appeared at Georgetown University when he fielded a question about whether he would support former President Donald Trump if Trump were the Republican nominee in 2024.

“Well, there might be someone I would prefer more,” Pence said.

His reply touched off a flurry of news stories and speculation. Most of the speculation focused on one question.

Is Pence preparing to run for president?

The answer to that is easy.

Yes, Mike Pence is getting ready to run for president. He has been working and planning to put himself in a position to run for president from the moment he learned to walk — and maybe even before that.

Every career choice he has made has been in service of this ambition.

When, as a young man, he first ran for Congress and received solid thumpings in return for his efforts, he could have retreated to a prosperous and comfortable career as a lawyer. Instead, he labored for The Indiana Policy Review and as a conservative radio talk-show host, building an audience that he one day would transform into a constituency.

When he finally did gain a seat in Congress, he spent almost all his time catering to that conservative constituency, trying to establish himself as the second coming of Ronald Reagan — even when doing so caused him problems within his own caucus.

Pence had no great interest in the work of being Indiana’s governor — state issues bored him, so he always sought opportunities to drag both interviews and conversations to national concerns — but he knew he never would make it to the White House without executive experience.

So, he ran for a job he really didn’t want and spent four years serving as a pinata for both the left and right. The issues that confronted him — same-sex marriage, reconciling religious liberty with larger community and economic interests — called for negotiation and mediation, tough work for a man whose strengths were in advocating and agitating.

Pence appeared on his way to defeat in the 2016 gubernatorial election when Trump selected the younger man to be his running mate.

The conventional wisdom now is that Pence should feel indebted to Trump for saving him from defeat. There’s truth to that, but there’s also truth in the argument that Trump never would have been elected president without Pence.

Social conservatives — Pence’s base — had intense skepticism about the libertine Trump prior to the 2016 election. Pence brought them into the Trump camp and provided the narrow Electoral College margin of victory Trump enjoyed.

Trump never has been one to honor a debt of any sort.

He spent four years either belittling or ignoring Pence before finally siccing a mob on the vice president and the Pence family on Jan. 6, 2021.

Pence’s refusal to help Trump violate both the law and the Constitution to overturn the 2020 election branded him as a pariah in Trump world without winning many friends elsewhere.

No matter.

Pence will be 65 in 2024. That election likely will be the only opportunity he has to chase his dream.

When a man has sacrificed as much and for as long as Mike Pence has in service of a single driving ambition, when the moment comes to try to realize that ambition, he won’t hesitate. Even should the shot he has not be a good one — and Pence’s chances of being elected president are far from great — if it’s the only shot he’s got, it’s the one he takes.

It’s the moment Mike Pence has spent his whole life waiting for.

He’s not going to miss it.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students, where this commentary originally appeared. The opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the views of Franklin College. Send comments to [email protected].