Former US Vice-President Mike Pence has taken the step of officially submitting the necessary paperwork to join the growing list of Republican candidates running for president.
At 63, Pence is scheduled to launch his campaign formally through a video, speech, and town hall event in Iowa, an early-voting state, on Wednesday.
This move sets up a potential rivalry between Pence and his former boss, Donald Trump, whom he served alongside in the White House for four years from 2017 to 2021.
Currently, Trump is leading the race significantly in most opinion polls. According to those polls, Pence is now in a distant third place with only minimal support in single-digit figures.
As a former Indiana governor and congressman, Pence is anticipated to position himself as a continuation of the conservative agenda of the Trump administration without the accompanying baggage.
Pence, who identifies as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order,” displayed unwavering loyalty to Trump throughout the majority of their tenure in office.
However, he has distanced himself from his former boss since the riot by Trump supporters at the US Capitol in January 2021.
During the certification of results in Congress, Trump pressured Pence to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory and criticized him for lacking “courage” when he declined.
As they stormed the halls of Congress, some rioters were heard chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” and many Trump loyalists now perceive him as a traitor.
In March, the former vice president stated that Trump’s encouragement of the rioters had “endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day.”
Pence has spent several months laying the groundwork for his presidential bid and is counting on a strong showing in Iowa.
Religious conservatives hold significant influence as a voting bloc in the state, having helped Texas Senator Ted Cruz narrowly defeat Trump in 2016.
Pence’s popularity among evangelical voters was believed to have contributed to his running mate’s success in winning the White House.
However, he will face competition for evangelical support from other contenders, including South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
The Democratic National Committee dismissed Pence as Trump’s “Maga wingman,” expecting his entry to further shift the Republican field to the right. “Maga” stands for Make America Great Again, which was Trump’s campaign slogan.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, widely seen as Trump’s primary rival, currently polls a distant second in the race. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and incumbent North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum also plan to enter the race this week.
Concerns are growing that a crowded field could divide the anti-Trump vote, potentially resulting in Trump securing the party’s nomination once again.