In gauging the dynamic of Trump/Pence 3.0, look no further than star-struck U.S. Rep. Jim Banks.
“Donald Trump remains a very popular figure in the Republican Party in each corner of the country,” Banks told “Fox News Sunday” last weekend in the aftermath of Nov. 8. “I believe that Donald Trump was a very effective president for our country. I believe he could be a very effective president for our country again.”
This assessment came after the Nov. 8 congressional Republican debacle, when a series of kooky GOP Senate candidates hand-picked by the former president lost in races that more mainstream Republicans would have easily won. And there is the bizarre spectacle of Georgia Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker, who said Wednesday, “I don’t know if you know, but vampires are some cool people, are they not? But let me tell you something that I found out: A werewolf can kill a vampire.”
Despite the torpid economy, Democrats kept control of the Senate while the GOP took a tiny majority in the House after many predicted they would pick up 25-40 seats.
Trump raised, and then hoarded about $100 million in small donations that could have been used to help fund those candidates. His selection of “election denial” swing state candidates for governor and secretary of state that could have dramatically destroyed the key contour of democracy (accepting election results) all lost. Most, except for Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake (who told John McCain supporters to “get the hell out”) conceded after their defeats.
The Banks assessment comes after Trump launched an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that resulted in the deaths of five police officers (injuring 150 more), and could have cost the lives of the two top constitutional successors, Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
And Donald Trump stands to be indicted in the coming weeks and months for the top secret federal documents he hoarded at his Florida resort, as well as in Georgia where he allegedly conspired to render the will of the people moot.
We watched Donald Trump’s presidential announcement Tuesday at Mar-a-Lago – the first in history to take place at a crime scene – with an uninspired, almost rote, low energy speech filled with lies and flubs. Most of the Trump clan did not attend, the cable networks didn’t carry the whole speech, it was savaged by Murdoch media, security prevented a number of people tired of the rambling stream of consciousness leave, and former key aides lambasted it on air (former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney: “I think he’s the only Republican who could lose.”)
Conservative commentator Amanda Carpenter: “Trump – who dragged his party to midterm losses in 2018, lost the White House in 2020 to the oldest man ever to have the job, incited an insurrectionist mob into attacking the U.S. Capitol, was impeached twice, and contributed to yet another GOP midterm flop last week – sneered and grimaced through his announcement. He slow-read prepared remarks in a monotone, digressing to riff on whatever non sequitur popped into his mind. The biggest bold-faced names spotted in the crowd were a grifter’s row of deplorables and has-beens: Roger Stone, Madison Cawthorn, Mike Lindell, and Dick Morris.”
And it’s not like Rep. Banks doesn’t have options He could back fellow Hoosier Mike Pence.
Pence’s new book, “So Help Me God,” positioned him for an ABC “World News Tonight” interview with David Muir on Monday, a CNN town hall on Wednesday, and the beginning of Trump/Pence 3.0, which will be a vastly different dynamic than anything this political odd couple has been through before. ”I think we will have better choices in 2024,” Pence said. “I’m very confident that Republican primary voters will choose wisely.
“My conclusion,” he said of the mid-term debacle, “is the candidates that were focused on the future, focused on the challenges the American people are facing today and solutions to those challenges did quite well.” But those still questioning the 2020 results – as Trump demanded – “did not do as well.”
And Pence had this scathing assessment of the Jan. 6 insurrection: “I’ll never forget the simmering indignation that I felt that day, seeing those sights on the cellphones as we gathered in the loading dock below the Senate chamber. I couldn’t help but think not this, not here, not in America.”
Pence reacted to Trump’s 2:24 p.m. Jan. 6 tweet (“Mike Pence doesn’t have the courage”), noting that it “criticized me directly at a time that a riot was raging in the Capitol hallways. The president’s words were reckless, and they endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol building.”
“It didn’t end well,” Pence acknowledged in an epic understatement.
Pence is now pondering a 2024 presidential run. “We’re giving it consideration in our house. Prayerful consideration,” Pence told Muir.
And that would be a huge gamble for the former Indiana governor.
That not only reduced what was to be a “red wave” into a trickle; Trump’s instincts will be to destroy any GOP opponent, and if denied the nomination, turn 2024 into what conservative commentator Charlie Sykes calls the Republican “red wedding,” in reference to the murderously epic “Game of Thrones” episode. “He’s prepared to burn it all down. They may be done with him, but he is not done with them.”
The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at howeypolitics.com.