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Press: Pence saved the country once, he might do so again

The day Donald Trump won all the delegates he needed to secure the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) endorsed him. “It should come as no surprise that as nominee, he will have my support,” McConnell said in a statement

But actually, it should have come as a surprise after McConnell denounced Trump for Jan. 6. With McConnell accusing him of “disgraceful dereliction of duty” and being “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day” — and especially after Trump smeared McConnell’s wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, with an anti-Asian slur, calling her McConnell’s “China-loving wife, Coco Chow” — you’d expect McConnell to break with Trump. 

No chance. In the end, McConnell proved he’s nothing but a party hack: putting party over country, even putting party loyalty over loyalty to his own wife. When it comes to handing out this year’s “Profiles in Courage” awards, McConnell won’t even be on the list of nominees. 

What a contrast with former Vice President Mike Pence. Whatever you think of his politics (I don’t think much of them), you must admit: This is the second time that Pence has shown some real backbone. The first time was on Jan. 6. After intense pressure from his boss to reject the final vote of the Electoral College, and even after the president of the United States reportedly called him a “pussy” for refusing to do so, Pence chose to do his duty and uphold the Constitution — thereby possibly saving the country from civil war. 

While not as important as his actions on Jan. 6, Pence’s decision not to endorse Trump is still hugely significant because he opened a door for other disenchanted, formerly Trumpist Republicans. Like McConnell and others, Pence could have taken the easy way out. He could have cowered under the cloak of party loyalty.

Instead, to his credit, he put country above party. And in so doing, he sent out a strong message. He gave a green light to other Republicans: It’s OK. You can refuse to support Trump and still be a good Republican. 

Pence is not the first to dump Trump. Even before Pence, what’s striking is how many leading Republicans who worked in the Trump White House had already done so. In July 2023, of 44 former Trump Cabinet officials contacted by NBC News, only four said they endorsed Trump for reelection. 

Since then, the number of anti-Trump, former-top-Trumpers has grown. They include some of the most senior officials in the Trump administration: former Defense secretaries Jim Mattis and Mark Esper; former White House chiefs of staff John Kelly and Mick Mulvaney; former National Security Adviser John Bolton; former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats; former White House Director of Strategic Intelligence Alyssa Farah Griffin; former Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Matthews; former executive assistant to the White House chief of staff Cassidy Hutchinson; and others. They served close to Trump. Their message is: To know him is to reject him. 

But, of course, none of them have the stature of Mike Pence. Nobody was closer to Trump. He served him loyally as vice president for four years. He’s the most conservative of them all. He’s a favorite of evangelicals. He, more than anyone else, can inspire others, like Nikki Haley, not to endorse Trump.

Mike Pence saved the country once. He just might do so again. 

Press hosts “The Bill Press Pod.” He is the author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”  

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