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More mush from Mike Pence

At a Politics & Eggs breakfast at Saint Anselm College, Pence stayed true to reputation.

The one thing that makes Mike Pence different from other would-be presidential candidates — standing up to Trump after the 2020 election — is something he’s afraid to embrace.Charles Krupa/Associated Press


By his actions, he could cast himself as a profile in courage. But when it comes to Donald Trump, Mike Pence prefers to present like a man of mush.

The former vice president is “deeply troubled” about the search warrant executed “at the personal residence of a former president” and wants a full accounting for it from Attorney General Merrick Garland. But he also wants Republicans to know they can hold Garland accountable for the decisions he made “without attacking rank and file personnel at the FBI.” Pence would also “consider” an invitation from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol. But he’s “disappointed” that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two Republican nominees to the panel and missed an opportunity “to bring people together.”


At a Politics & Eggs breakfast at Saint Anselm College, Pence stayed true to reputation. He was no Liz Cheney, the lawmaker from Wyoming who speaks truth to power when it comes to Trump and paid the ultimate price by losing her seat to a Trump-backed primary challenger. Asked some bold questions by Jim Brett, the president and CEO of the New England Council, about the search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and the Jan. 6 committee, Pence threaded the needle with all the caution of a potential presidential candidate who knows he carries a big burden with Trump loyalists because he refused to delay certification of the 2020 presidential election results.

At this stage, the needle-threading is the right thing to do, said Tom Rath, a former attorney general of New Hampshire and adviser to several Republican presidential candidates. Pence walked into the room “with a very difficult task,” said Rath: trying to sell himself to conservatives as the embodiment of Trump policies, even as Trump backers blame him for torpedoing Trump’s fantasy of retaining power after he lost the election to President Biden. On policy, “he did what he should have done,” said Rath, plus came across as approachable. “He’s nice,” said Rath. “He’s not a stuffed shirt.”


Is that enough to carve out a path to a potential Pence presidency? I’m not a Republican political strategist, but I doubt it.

On a range of issues, Pence played up his conservative credentials. He called the Inflation Reduction Act that Biden signed this week “a massive $740 billion spending bill with more taxes, more spending” and “a radical green agenda.” He praised the three conservative justices appointed during the Trump years to a Supreme Court “that just a few short months ago . . . sent Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs.” His said his goals include ending all taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers, defending religious liberty, securing the border, ending the teaching of critical race theory in schools, and “ending the assault on women’s sports,” a reference to transgender athletes.

Yet none of that differentiates Pence from any other would-be Republican presidential candidate. And the one thing that does make him different — standing up to Trump after the 2020 election — is something he’s afraid to embrace. In his speech, Pence also said he believes that the American people “are looking for men and women of conviction.” Yet with the perfect platform to make the case that he is such a man, he has yet to make it for himself.


John Kangas, a registered Republican who said he worked at Saint Anselm College, said Pence was “middle of the road” in his answer on the Mar-a-Lago search, but not middle of the road when it came to his conservative Republican political positions. “I hoped to see him as a presidential candidate who was not as divisive” as others, said Kangas. Does he still have that hope? “No,” said Kangas.

In that critique is a missed opportunity for Pence, one that he seems to be weighing as he pursues what looks to be a White House quest. Noting that he has a book coming out, he said he would be “telling my story more frequently.”

When it comes to Jan. 6, “The American people have a right to know what happened that day,” he said.

He should be the one to tell them. Ultra-Trump loyalists are already lost to him. But there are Americans who believe in the rule of law and appreciate a fellow citizen, who, at least on Jan. 6, believed in it, too. It might not win him the presidency, but it would win him respect. To that end, Pence should do more than “consider” talking to the Jan. 6 committee. He should just do it.

Joan Vennochi is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at Follow her @joan_vennochi.