LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – Former Vice President Mike Pence says that former President Donald Trump’s repeated re-litigating of his 2020 election loss may have contributed to the Republican Party’s lackluster performance in last week’s midterm elections.
And Pence, who’s seriously considering a presidential run, said that Trump’s 2024 campaign launch earlier this week will not be a factor in his own decision regarding a White House run.
Pence, in a sit down interview with Fox News Digital on Friday evening on the sidelines of the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, was asked about last week’s results, when the GOP failed to win a Senate majority, lost key governors races and secured a razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives, far lower than expected in what was supposed to be a “red wave” election.
“A win is a win and I couldn’t be more grateful that early in January, [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi will hand the speaker’s gavel to Kevin McCarthy as the new speaker of a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. That’s going to be a great day for America.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) (AP )
But he acknowledged that “I would have liked a larger majority,” adding he wished “we had won the Senate and there were many governorships that that that I thought were within our reach, where we came up short.”
A number of Republicans in the wake of the midterm elections have criticized the former president for boosting far-right MAGA style candidates – who supported Trump’s unproven claims the 2020 election was stolen – who won GOP primaries but ended up losing in high profile competitive general election showdowns.
Pence said the common denominator in the midterms was that “candidates focused on the future did well. Candidates that focused on the past or re litigating the past did not fare as well.”
Asked if Trump deserved some blame, the former vice president answered “I would say my former running mate was one of the people talking about the past and it was not helpful.”
But he quickly added that “the buck ultimately stops on the candidates themselves. And it’s easy to point at someone else but I honestly think that the candidates and the campaigns that were focused on the past did not meet the moment that voters wanted.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen at a book signing at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership conference, on Nov. 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada (Fox News )
Pence, who was busy the past year and a half crisscrossing the country to campaign and help raise money for Republicans running in the 2022 elections, made multiple stops in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, the first four states to vote in the Republican presidential nominating calendar. The former vice president has been making the moves, such as building relationships in the early voting presidential primary and caucus states, that often precede the launch of an actual White House campaign.
Pence reiterated that a decision on whether he’ll run for president won’t come until next year and added that he and his wife Karen will “make a decision wherever we feel called and we’ll go we’re called.”
Asked if he’ll be impacted by Trump’s 2024 announcement, Pence said “the only decision Karen and I have made is we’re not going to let anybody else make the decision for us. Look, it’s free country. President Trump had every right to announce his intention to seek election back to as president…but for us as a family it really is all about calling.”
Former President Donald Trump during an announcement at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, US, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. Trump formally entered the 2024 US presidential race, making official what he’s been teasing for months just as many Republicans are preparing to move away from their longtime standard-bearer. (Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Pence also praised Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York, who came close to defeating Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul last week in the heavily blue Empire State. Zeldin’s strong performance is being credited in helping Republicans flip four House seats in New York State. Zeldin is now seriously mulling a challenge to Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel as she runs for a fourth two-year term steering the national party committee.
“My respect for Lee Zeldin is boundless. He ran a courageous campaign for governor of New York,” Pence said. “I really do believe that among the legacies of his campaign for governor could well be a Republican majority…. the state of New York is sending four new Republicans to the House of Representatives that we may well end up with a four-seat majority. And I can’t say enough good things about Lee Zeldin.”
But when asked if he’d encourage Zeldin to seek the RNC chair, Pence answered, “I’ll leave those decisions to members of the Republican National Committee.”
In his address to the RJC’s leadership conference, Pence spotlighted his support for Israel and criticized President Biden’s push to restart nuclear negotiations with Iran.
“If the Biden administration signs a new nuclear deal with the mullahs in Tehran, the next American president will be a Republican, and the next American president will tear up that deal on day one,” Pence argued.
Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire.
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