By Brian Howey
For The Republic
There have been two topics of Mike Pence for president stories in recent weeks. The first has been about Pence taking his nascent campaign to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, preparing for an upstart 2024 campaign. The second is the many articles saying he has little to no chance, particularly if former president Donald Trump runs.
And now comes the Mississippi abortion case that was heard Wednesday morning by the U.S. Supreme Court, described as the most direct challenge to Roe v. Wade since the Casey case three decades ago. According to the AP, the Supreme Court had never agreed to hear a case over an abortion ban so early in pregnancy until all three Trump appointees – Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – were on board.
While we won’t know whether this Mississippi case overturns Roe, or changes the dynamic of the timeline for fetal viability for several months, this represents the culmination and goal of Mike Pence’s political career. And should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, it would become his most profound achievement.
Pence spoke at the National Press Club recently at a Susan B. Anthony event, saying, “Today as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments in those hallowed halls, we are here to declare with one voice ‘no more.’ I’m very hopeful and I do believe that Roe v. Wade will be overturned whether it’s now or in the future.”
He urged the high court to throw the Roe v. Wade decision to the “ash heap of history,” a phrase that has echoed throughout his congressional and vice presidential career sequences.
Pence has been in a political purgatory since he resisted President Trump’s coup d’etat on Jan. 6, surviving the mobs chanting his name in the shadow of a gallows erected on Capitol Hill, then moving to certify the Electoral College victory of Democrat Joe Biden after the insurrection was quelled. He was the only Trump administration official to attend Biden’s inauguration, and has been the subject of frequent barbs from Trump via emails to supporters and quotes in a hail of tell-all books describing the chaotic and seditious end to the Trump presidency.
Polls show Trump with a huge early advantage over Pence and the rest of a possible GOP field. A YouGov poll conducted in November showed Trump leading Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis 44 to 21%, with Pence at 4%.
As we all know, Donald Trump reached out to Pence about joining his ticket in April through July 2016, finally settling on the Indiana governor over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for two key reasons: 1. Pence looked like a vice president according the constantly screen-testing Trump. 2. He brought along the GOP’s evangelical voting bloc that had been uncomfortable with Trump’s history of womanizing while straddling the Roe v. Wade political divide.
It was Pence who articulated the importance of the Federalist Society’s SCOTUS list of potential nominees, with their willingness to overturn Roe. It was Pence who was the driving force behind President Trump’s nominations of Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and, finally, Notre Dame’s Amy Coney Barrett, that have set in motion the most ardent challenge to Roe, which was heard Dec. 1.
“President Trump had me interview all of the finalists for the Supreme Court,” Pence told Christian Broadcast Network News that day. “I was able to spend time with Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Amy Coney Barrett and Justice Neil Gorsuch before they were appointed. I will tell you that they are men and women of integrity and conviction and I’m just going to be joining a great chorus of Americans that will be praying that they have the courage to seize this moment for life.”
Should the Supreme Court strike down Roe, or set in motion a state-by-state recalibration of fetal viability, it will not only change the political dynamic in dozens of state legislatures, but it could also revive Pence’s political muscle with evangelical voters, creating a viable lane to the 2024 nomination, particularly if Trump’s brand fades and he decides not to risk a second embarrassing loss.
While Trump has been focused on his “Big Lie” on the “stolen” 2020 election and a plethora of teeming “RINOs” that need to be eradicated from the Republican Party, he has been virtually silent on perhaps his most profound impact as president, which is setting up SCOTUS for this very moment.