A political veteran who heads a conservative advocacy group says he believes former vice president Mike Pence has a chance to upset the GOP leaders in the race and win the 2024 Republican nomination.
Ralph Reed, who heads the Faith & Freedom Coalition and whose leadership in social conservatism dates back to the 1980s, told Christianity Today that Pence can claim credit for popular Trump administration policies among conservatives, such as the nomination of three Supreme Court justices and the moving of the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
"Mike is as effective a messenger in reaching voters of faith as anyone I've ever seen in my career," Reed told Christianity Today. "And I think he's going to get a very fair hearing, from not just evangelical voters but all primary voters."
Pence is the first former vice president to challenge an ex-president in a presidential race. So far, he's running a distant but consistent third place, trailing former president Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls.
Pence is tying his candidacy to a solid finish in next year's Iowa caucuses and to support among his fellow evangelicals, who comprise nearly two-thirds of caucus-goers, according to Christianity Today. CT profiled Pence in a story under the headline, "On a Wing and a Prayer: Mike Pence Hitches Presidential Hopes on Fellow Evangelicals."
A Des Moines Register poll found that 58 percent of self-identified evangelicals view Pence favorably – the same percentage that views Trump favorably. His unfavorable ratings (39 percent) were the same as Trump's unfavorable ratings.
Earlier this month, Pence delivered a speech at the Future Farmers of America Enrichment Center in Ankeny, Iowa. Next month, he will appear at the Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines.
"I came to faith in Jesus Christ as a man in college, and I started a lifelong love affair with the Constitution of the United States for all of my adult life," he said in a recent Iowa speech.
He's also tying his candidacy to a hope that Republicans will see him as the true conservative in the race.
"In 2016, Donald Trump promised to govern as a conservative. And I'm proud to say that we did for four years under the Trump-Pence administration. But he makes no such promise today," Pence told Meet the Press. "Not only has he been walking away from a clear commitment to the right to life, but we have a national debt the size of our nation's economy. Joe Biden's policy is insolvency. … Donald Trump's position on the national debt is identical to Joe Biden's. And to me, the Republican Party has to be the party of growth and fiscal responsibility and reform. I think we owe it to those kids of mine and yours, to my granddaughters, to square our shoulders and be straight with the American people about the magnitude of this national debt."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Rey Del Rio/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.