Former Vice President Mike Pence wasn’t on the ballot in Georgia this week, but he saw the results from the GOP primary as good news for him with two major figures opposing stolen election claims in 2020 emerging victorious despite former President Donald Trump’s best efforts.
In New Hampshire on Thursday, Mr. Pence said Gov. Brian Kemp’s trouncing of Trump-backed former Sen. David Perdue shows GOP voters aren’t looking to settle scores with their party’s candidates, even if Mr. Trump is.
“I think that landslide victory [Mr. Kemp] won in that primary is evidence that while some want to make this election year about the past, the Republican Party is the part of the future,” Mr. Pence said on “Good Morning NH with Jack Heath.”
Georgia was ground zero for Mr. Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him by Democrats, and Mr. Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger became the face of resistance to those claims.
Both emerged Tuesday with victories, as voters looked beyond Mr. Trump’s wrath.
“They weren’t rejecting Trump per se,” conservative commentator Erick Erickson told his radio audience this week. “They are just ready to move on to the future now, instead of living in the past relitigating Trump’s grievances.”
That’s important for Mr. Pence, who refused Mr. Trump’s entreaties to upend the Electoral College vote counting on Jan. 6, and who is hoping to have a political future despite earning the ire of his former ticket mates.
“I think Pence has to be very pleased by the results of that election,” said Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. “It shows Trump may be very upset with you and not like you but that doesn’t mean you can’t win Republican primary elections.”
With about 1.2 million votes counted, Mr. Kemp collected nearly 900,000, obliterating Mr. Perdue’s 260,000 or so. Mr. Raffensperger grabbed more than 600,000, topping a field of candidates led by Rep. Jody Hice, who garnered fewer than 400,000.
Mr. Raffensperger’s win was widely celebrated, including by one of Mr. Trump’s most frequent targets in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who called to congratulate him on his win.
Mr. Pence had traveled to Georgia to campaign with Mr. Kemp, while Mr. Trump rallied for Mr. Perdue.
Georgia is just one of the races where Mr. Trump has injected himself.
He’s also taken a keen interest in the 10 House Republicans that voted to impeach him last year on charges he incited the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, which disrupted but did not derail the counting of the Electoral College votes.
Four of those 10 have opted against seeking reelection, to Mr. Trump’s delight, while five others face primary challenges from Trump-endorsed opponents.
Mr. Trump is scheduled to headline a rally Saturday in Wyoming to boost Harriet Hageman, the GOP primary challenger against one of his most vocal critics, Rep. Liz Cheney.
Mr. Trump has also been withering in his criticism of Mr. Pence, saying he had the power to reject the Electoral College votes from states where the then-president believed fraud had taken place.
The broadsides from Mr. Trump and his allies have surprised some insiders given the loyalty Mr. Pence showed his former boss in the White House.
Mr. Pence has maintained his role as vice president in presiding over the Electoral College was largely ceremonial and he lacked the constitutional authority to unilaterally meet Mr. Trump’s demand. Most constitutional scholars agree.
Campaigning in New Hampshire — expected to be the home of the first primary in the 2024 GOP presidential race — Mr. Pence on Thursday said 2020 is in the past for voters.
“We are facing a lot of challenges and the Biden administration seems to invent ways almost every day to weaken America at home and abroad,” he said. “Families are struggling under an avalanche of inflation and gasoline prices, and people want solutions. They want to focus on the future.”
Mr. Pence laid low for a few months after the attack on the Capitol only to emerge to offer himself as a bridge between the MAGA movement and traditional conservatism. Not everybody has been ready for that.
Mr. Pence was met last year with boos and cries of “traitor!” from hecklers at a Faith & Freedom Coalition conference in Florida.
Craig Robinson, a longtime GOP commentator in Iowa, said Mr. Pence is an enigma.
“My sense is that Republicans like him,” Mr. Robinson said. “They think he did a good job as vice president, but the way it all ended leaves a sour taste.”
Mr. Levesque, however, said Mr. Pence is still a top draw in New Hampshire and spurs a lot of interest among Republicans there.
“The golden rule of politics is: What have you done for me lately?” he said. “So if that transmits into a theme of, ‘Let’s look forward,’ I think that is a good message for him.”
He added: “If it wasn’t for that Jan. 6 situation, he’d be at the top of the charts.”