NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence declined to say Thursday whether he would back Donald Trump if his former boss were to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2024.
Pence, widely expected to seek the nomination himself, suggested that Trump's leadership style isn’t what the party needs in the upcoming White House race.
“I think we'll have better choices,” Pence told The Associated Press in an interview in South Carolina. “I'm persuaded that no one could have defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 except Donald Trump, but I think we live in a different time and it calls for different leadership.”
Pence and Trump have been estranged since the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, by Trump’s supporters in an attempt to stop the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.
Republicans are expected to include a pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee among formal criteria for participation in primary debates.
Pence, on his ninth trip to the early-voting state since leaving office, participated in a policing roundtable with officials in North Charleston. He planned to meet later with pastors in Greenville and host a talk about his latest book at Bob Jones University.
Pence said he would make a decision about 2024 "by the spring.” Already in the race are Trump and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Others who could join them include Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.
“The American people want us to return to the policies of the Trump-Pence administration, but I think they want to see leadership that reflects more of the character of the American people: namely the commitment to principle and the civility that Americans show each other every day,” Pence said. "And so, if we enter the fray, we will offer that kind of leadership.”
Pence was asked whether he was making the case that he was the best choice for Republican voters who supported Trump administration policies but not Trump now. Pence didn't answer directly.
“I promise you, if I become a candidate for president of the United States, I'll be me," Pence said. "I will do it all in a way that I've always aspired to do, and that is show the kind of respect to people, even of differing opinions, that I think the American people show each other every day.
“We've just got to have government as good as our people again, and I'm confident that, someday soon, we will,” he said.
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP