WASHINGTON — As former President Donald Trump teases a third bid for the White House, he is signaling that his old running mate won't be joining the ticket this time around.
In an interview with The Washington Examiner on Tuesday, Trump said: "I don’t think the people would accept" Pence as his running mate on a prospective 2024 ticket. Trump would first need to secure the Republican nomination, of course, before formally selecting a running mate.
"Mike and I had a great relationship except for the very important factor that took place at the end. We had a very good relationship," Trump said. "I haven’t spoken to him in a long time."
Trump is referring to Pence's refusal to overturn the 2020 election after Trump urged him to do so. Pence has since said that he lacked the power to do so, but Trump has criticized that position, arguing that Pence could used the power of the vice presidency to block President Joe Biden's election. The overwhelming majority of constitutional scholars have said Trump's position is without merit.
Trump's remarks come as Pence has increasingly distanced himself from the former president. As NBC News reported this week, Pence has broken with Trump more in the past five weeks than he had in the previous five years as he considers a 2024 presidential campaign of his own.
At a meeting of GOP donors this month, Pence said Republicans "cannot win by fighting yesterday’s battles," while also condemning apologists for Russian President Vladimir Putin, comments seen as a rebuke of Trump, who had initially referred to the Russian leader's strategy in Ukraine as "genius" and "savvy."
But it was the remark over "fighting yesterday's battles" that was the more direct assertion. Trump remains fixated on his 2020 election defeat, promoting debunked claims of a stolen election while suggesting that Pence could have prevented the ascertainment of Biden's victory on Jan. 6, 2021.
Some of the pro-Trump rioters who stormed the Capitol that day, delaying the counting of Electoral College votes, were heard chanting "hang Mike Pence," who was presiding over the count.
Last month, Pence rejected Trump's claim that he could have "overturned" the 2020 results, saying: "The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone."
"I heard this week that President Trump said I had the right to overturn the election. President Trump is wrong," Pence said in a speech to the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization, in Orlando, Florida..
Those remarks prompted Trump to say Pence considered himself "an automatic conveyor belt for the Old Crow Mitch McConnell to get Biden elected President as quickly as possible."