Pence Vows to Back GOP Governors Facing Trump-Approved Challengers

Former Vice President Mike Pence will reportedly back incumbent GOP governors over challengers endorsed by Donald Trump, potentially furthering the rift between himself and the ex-commander-in-chief.

Pence told a handful of these governors of his support during a private meeting, according to a Wall Street Journal report published on Saturday.

"I want to be clear," Pence reportedly said. "I'm going to be supporting incumbent Republican governors."

The article further noted that, despite Trump's continued popularity among parts of the GOP base, numerous Republican leaders are keeping their distance from the former president following his defeat in the 2020 election and the loss of GOP control of the Senate.

The thinking among the state leaders is that a greater focus on local issues will play out better than fealty to Trump.

mike pence donald trump
Former Vice President Mike Pence will reportedly back incumbent GOP governors over challengers endorsed by Donald Trump, potentially furthering the rift between himself and the ex-commander-in-chief. Above Trump and Pence stand together during a homecoming campaign rally at the BB&T Center on November 26, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Trump has endorsed GOP primary challengers against half of the Republican governors seeking re-election next year. The Journal also noted that several of these leaders have reportedly grown closer over the last few years, supporting each other amid challenges from the former president during governor-only calls.

During this call, per Raw Story, Republican Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan reportedly called Trump's attacks on incumbent governors "outrageous, unacceptable and bad for the party." He also called the tactics employed by the former president "Trump cancel culture.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, a Democratic spokesman said that the simmering conflict between Trump and Republican governors is a good sign for their side.

"These extreme primary challengers are going to push Republican governors further to the right and out of the mainstream," David Turner, spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association, said, per Raw Story. "The political environment is only going to improve for Democrats."

Newsweek reached out to representatives for both Pence and Trump for a comment on this story.

The schism between Pence and Trump has reportedly grown in the wake of the Jan. 6 Riots at the U.S. Capitol. The former vice president is said to be "ashamed" of his former running mate, according to former Pence press secretary Alyssa Farah, and might be planning to poach some of Trump's voting base for a possible 2024 presidential run of his own.

"There's aspects of the record they did together that I know Pence is proud of, but I know he is ashamed of that [January 6], he is ashamed of how the former president conducted himself," Farah said.

Trump's endorsement power saw a successful test recently when Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democratic challenger Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial race. Despite the support of Trump, Youngkin's win would not be a perfect contrast against the situation facing the incumbent GOP governors, as the governor-elect of Virginia notably distanced himself from the former president during his campaign.

Update 11/20/21, 1:03 PM ET: included a reported comment by Gov. Larry Hogan.