EXCLUSIVE: Former Vice President Mike Pence says Republican voters’ familiarity with his story affords him some breathing room as he makes a decision on whether to launch a campaign for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
Pence’s one-time running mate, former President Donald Trump, declared his candidacy for the White House in mid-November. And former ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and entrepreneur, author and conservative commentator Vivek Ramaswamy launched presidential campaigns last month.
But Pence isn’t concerned that the clock is ticking, emphasizing in an exclusive interview Friday with Fox News Digital that "I think the advantage that we have is I think the American people know the Pences."
"By and large they know our story and our career, and some are getting to know it better every day. So, we think we have time to be discerning, to be reflective, to listen," Pence said.
Pence reiterated his 2024 timetable, saying that he and his wife, former second lady Karen Pence, "both believe that we’ll have a clear sense of our call this spring."
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The former vice president has made numerous visits to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — the first four states to hold contests in the GOP’s presidential nominating calendar — the past two years. Pence returned to Iowa last month and to South Carolina on Thursday.
Fox News has learned that Pence will head back on New Hampshire on March 16 for stops in Manchester before heading to Keene to headline a major Cheshire County GOP fundraising dinner.
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Pence’s Fox News interview took place on the sidelines of a donor retreat hosted by the politically influential, fiscally conservative group the Club for Growth. In a speech to top GOP contributors gathered at an exclusive beachfront resort in this upper crust seaside community, the former vice president emphasized to the crowd that "Republicans and conservatives cannot abandon our commitment to fiscal responsibility and reform and that includes commonsense reforms to Social Security and Medicare."
Pointing to nation’s exploding national debt in light of the recent birth of two of his granddaughters, the former vice president stressed that "I can’t walk by the debt crisis our nation’s facing and neither can you."
Minutes later, he told Fox News that "unlike President Joe Biden, I want to talk about how we put our nation back on a pathway to fiscal solvency and integrity."
Pence said that "if I’m a candidate for president I’ll use that platform to make it clear to the American people that we are headed to an unprecedented debt crisis in this country but that if we have leadership today, we can apply commonsense principles to it that would never touch anyone in retirement or anyone near retirement but would give younger Americans better choices than they have under these New Deal programs and try to light a pathway towards restoring fiscal integrity to our national government."
But the calls for reforming Social Security and Medicare are dividing the GOP. Trump has warned other Republicans to stay away from touching the popular entitlement programs.
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Asked if his former running mate was wrong on this issue, Pence answered "I think anyone who thinks that we can afford to ignore the pending insolvency of Social Security, Medicare, or our national government is wrong."
"Joe Biden’s policy is insolvency," the former vice president stated. "His stated purpose of never talking about or even discussing commonsense reforms to Social Security and Medicare, and other Republican voices who are mouthing the same, simply are doing a disservice I think to future generations of Americans and to the ability of our country to meet our obligations to our people and the world in the future."
Pence declined to say in a recent interview with CBS News whether he’d support Trump if the former president won the 2024 GOP nomination.
Asked if he would take a pledge to support the eventual nominee that the Republican National Committee is likely to make the presidential candidates take in order to make the RNC’s primary debates, Pence said: "I’ve supported Republican candidates for my entire adult life since I joined the Reagan revolution as a young man. And if I’m a candidate for president I have every confidence that we’ll meet the obligations that the RNC sets for the debate."
"I do believe that different times call for different leadership. I think we’ll have better choices come 2024," he added. "I’m confident that Republican primary voters are going to choose well, that are going to choose a standard-bearer that will be able to lead us to victory in 2024."
After huddling with donors at the Club for Growth retreat, Pence headlined a separate event later in the day in Palm Beach with other top financial contributors. The mingling with GOP rainmakers came a week after the former vice president sat down with major Republican donors at a retreat in Austin, Texas hosted by Karl Rove, a longtime GOP strategist and former top adviser to then-President George W. Bush who’s also a Fox News contributor.