“There are some Trump supporters who think he’s the anti-Christ,” said one Iowa GOP official.
DES MOINES, Iowa — Mike Pence was met by a respectful, even warm, crowd in his first trip back to Iowa since the election. Republicans at a picnic in the northwestern corner of the state stood and clapped for him on Friday. In Des Moines later that afternoon, a ballroom full of Christian conservatives did the same.
He was “honorable,” a “man of faith,” attendees at the annual Family Leadership Summit said. Evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats called him “a very consistent conservative voice in Congress and then as governor, and then as vice president.”
What few people said they saw in Pence, however, was the Republican nominee for president in 2024.
Many Iowa Republicans had seen the results of the most recent Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll, released just days earlier, in which Pence flatlined, drawing no more than 1 percent support. Before that, they’d watched the video of Pence getting heckled and called a “traitor” at a major gathering of conservatives in Florida last month.
“I don’t imagine he’d have a whole lot of support,” said Raymond Harre, vice chair of the GOP in eastern Iowa’s Scott County. “There are some Trump supporters who think he’s the anti-Christ.”
Harre said Pence “did a good job as vice president,” and he called the vitriol directed at him “kind of nutty.” Still, he said, “I don’t see him overcoming the negatives.”
Six months after he left the vice presidency, that is the prevailing view at the grassroots and among the GOP political class. By most accounts, both here and nationally, Pence is dead in the early waters of 2024.
“Who?” Doug Gross, a Republican operative who was a chief of staff to former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, replied flatly when asked about Pence. “It’s just, where would you place him? … With Trumpsters, he didn’t perform when they really wanted him to perform, so he’s DQ’d there. Then you go to the evangelicals, they have plenty of other choices.”
By DAVID SIDERS