Mike Pence will release the first episode of his new podcast, “American Freedom,” on Friday, the latest volley in the former vice president’s effort to recapture conservative audiences ahead of a potential presidential run in 2024.
The podcast, shared first with POLITICO, promises a buffet of red meat. Though the first episode is devoted to the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Pence tells listeners he plans in future episodes to discuss the “failed leadership of the Biden administration, a crisis on our Southern border, a crime wave in our cities,” efforts to “preserve our freedom” amid the coronavirus pandemic and “the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
For Pence, the podcast is part of a gradual re-emergence into Republican Party politics, where he occupies a precarious position in the post-Donald Trump landscape. Having served four years as Trump’s vice president, Pence is too close to the polarizing former president for some moderate Republicans. Yet after refusing to reject the results of the November election — something Pence had no authority to do — he has alienated vocal elements of Trump’s base.
In its timing and subject matter, the podcast episode released today will draw an implicit contrast with Trump. While Trump was scheduled to spend Saturday’s 20th anniversary of 9/11 providing ringside commentary at a boxing match, Pence on the podcast shares memories of 9/11 and speaks with one woman whose father died in the terrorist attacks and another whose father died in the war in Iraq, as well as with students who have organized commemorations of the attacks.
In a statement, Pence said the podcast “will serve as an opportunity to highlight the unique and remarkable ways in which the next generation of conservative leaders are stepping up to promote traditional conservative values and reject the destructive ideals of the radical left that threaten America’s standing as the great in the world.”
Pence, like most other prominent Republicans, almost certainly will not run for president if Trump does. Yet if Trump sits out 2024, Pence has high name recognition among Republicans and a robust donor and political network in the states. The podcast — hosted by the Young America’s Foundation, a conservative youth organization — offers him a new, if niche, line of communication to conservatives. In addition to the podcast, Pence plans to tour college campuses for the group. He has a book deal with Simon & Schuster and is raising money for House candidates ahead of next year’s midterm elections.
Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, president of YAF, said in a prepared statement that Pence is "the perfect choice to directly address the rising generation about the ongoing threats to freedom, and inspire them with the founding principles of our country.”
Walker, like Pence, was once considered a major part of the Republican Party’s future, before Trump remade the party in his image. In the post-Trump era, Pence has walked a fine line on Trump, telling Republican audiences that he does not “see eye to eye” with Trump on the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol while also insisting he “couldn’t be more proud” to have served with him. Meanwhile, he has skewered President Joe Biden on foreign policy in recent months, accusing the Democratic president of “weakness” on China and faulting him, more recently, for his handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
For Pence, the podcast represents a return to his radio roots. The former Indiana governor was a conservative radio show host before his election to Congress in 2000.
In recent months, he has spoken at a several GOP events, including in Iowa, the first caucus state, and held a donor retreat last month in Jackson Hole, Wyo., for his nonprofit, Advancing American Freedom.
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