Mike Pence Could Become Donald Trump's Nemesis in 2024

Former Vice President Mike Pence remains at the center of speculation about his plans for the 2024 presidential election, and though that's more than three years away, he may already be contemplating a run.

Pence's political advocacy group, Advancing American Freedom (AAF), is seeking to raise $18 million within its first year, according to an Axios report published on Wednesday.

As a former vice president and a household name, Pence would ordinarily seem well-positioned to contest the Republican nomination, but his path to the White House could be blocked by one major obstacle: former President Donald Trump.

A recent CNN/SSRS poll showed that 49 percent of Republicans now believe someone else should be the party's candidate, though Trump is still the favorite to win the GOP nomination.

The former president has repeatedly hinted at another White House run, saying his supporters will be "happy" with what he decides, while Pence has been even more reticent on his plans.

However, if his support among Republican voters declines and Pence can successfully build a war chest going into the primary campaign, he could see himself as a potentially viable opponent.

David A. Bateman, an associate professor at Cornell University's Department of Government, told Newsweek it would be very unusual if Pence weren't considering a run.

Bateman said if Pence "isn't seriously planning a presidential run - even against Trump - then he would be maybe the first VP in modern history to not do so."

"All VPs, most governors, most senators, and a good heap of others are always thinking of running," he said. "I expect that won't be any different this cycle."

Bateman said potential candidates would be working on their "brand," but that running in opposition to Trump looks like a losing proposition.

"But only a handful probably want to be the anti-Trump candidate - it's a losing play, since Trump won the last nomination and has only become more popular with Republicans since then," Bateman said.

"Still, I expect most would be willing to go up against Trump, just like they would be willing to run if he endorsed someone else. They don't want to, since that complicates their path. But they'd do it if they could convince themselves they can still win, and politicians are both coldly rational and deeply self-delusional."

"The complication is that everyone knows Trump's ego allows no contenders: they know that if they announce too early, seeming to foreclose his own candidacy, that he'll unleash his spittle at them. That would really really complicate their path," Bateman went on.

"So I expect they're all prepping, and if Trump were to announce a bunch would decide they couldn't win and so back out while others would persuade themselves that they still could win and so would just accept that they'd have to be Trump's opponent. They'd try to avoid being the anti-Trump candidate, but he won't make it easy."

Bateman said that Trump has to announce his decision at some point, but if he doesn't he "might leave potential candidates stuck waiting and unable to take the next steps."

Freezing Out Contenders

Thomas Gift, founding director of University College London's Centre on U.S. Politics, told Newsweek that if Trump decides to run, he could lock other candidates out of the race.

"If Trump does throw his hat in the ring for 2024, that decision will almost certainly freeze out many other would-be Republican contenders - Pence included," Gift said.

"It's hard to imagine Pence, or virtually any other GOP hopeful at this point, seriously contending with Trump's popularity among the conservative base. For many MAGA voters, Pence's failure to support Trump in trying to stop the certification of the 2020 election results was enough to be disqualifying in itself.

"We're about to start the 'invisible primary' - lots of potential candidates will be doing their own internal polling and be trying to gauge their viability before making any formal announcement about a presidential bid. For White House hopefuls like Pence, however, it's hard not to see this as a contingency plan if - and only if -Trump passes on running," he said.

Mark Shanahan is an associate professor at the Department of Politics and International Relations at Reading University and co-editor of The Trump Presidency: From Campaign Trail to World Stage. He told Newsweek Pence might be considering whether he could Trump's running mate in 2024.

"Mike Pence considers himself a serious candidate for a run at the Republican nomination for the presidential candidate in 2024, and his recent 'Heartland' public events are a good way to test the water and see which way the Republican wind is blowing," Shanahan said.

"At this stage, he doesn't have to commit to a candidacy, and will likely play the 'will he/won't he?' game up and through the 2022 Midterms - rather like his former boss, Donald Trump."

Possible Running Mates Again

"At the moment, Pence will be weighing up whether to oppose Trump or try and woo him again to be the 45th President's running mate for 2024," Shanahan went on.

"There's a lot of ground to cover before he needs to make any decision, and first he needs to determine what direction the GOP is set to take in the run-up to 2024. Trumpism may not be as solid as it might currently seem - it was clearly rejected by the voters of California, and Donald Trump's standing in the party could yet be destroyed by the outcomes of the January 6 Capitol insurrection Inquiry, or even if one of the many mooted lawsuits against Trump actually gets to court. Even if it's not, the chances of Trump actually running for the presidency again are less than 50:50," he said.

"Whatever happens, Pence will need to come out of 45's shadow and start to offer voters a distinct manifesto: something that shows him to be other than the vanilla supplicant who offered Trump a challenge-free easy ride through an unprecedently turbulent four years in the White House. He'll need to woo the money - and that's why these current toe-in-the-water events matter.

"Expect Pence to keep up the campaign of being politically relevant for the next 18 months, but don't expect him to commit to any kind of run until we tick into 2023. Being coy at the moment is an asset. He'll keep the media interested, but keep his powder dry," Shanahan added.

The 2024 Republican primaries may seem a distant prospect, but as Trump continues to tease his entry into the race and Pence appears to be laying the groundwork for his own run, the competition could be off to an early start.

Trump and Pence Are Nominated in 2016
Then Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump congratulates his running mate, then Indiana Governor Mike Pence, after Pence formally accepted the nomination during the third day of the Republican National Convention in the Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland Ohio, on July 20, 2016. The 2024 Republican primaries could see Trump and Pence face each other for the party's nomination. Mark Reinstein/Corbis/Getty Images