Byron York's Daily Memo: Pence moves toward post-Trump synthesis

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PENCE MOVES TOWARD POST-TRUMP SYNTHESIS. It has long been clear that the Republican Party, after President Donald Trump, will not return to the political, ideological, and cultural place it had been before Trump. On the other hand, it will not become a carbon copy of Trump. The question is, who will lead the GOP to create some sort of post-Trump synthesis?

There are a lot of candidates, and most of them are contemplating, or actively preparing, to run for president: Ron DeSantis, Mike Pompeo, Nikki Haley, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Kristi Noem, and more. Now, former Vice President Mike Pence has made a move that will keep him in the campaign mix, while also helping shape what the post-Trump synthesis will be.

On Wednesday morning, Pence, who is already affiliated with the Heritage Foundation, announced the formation of a new group called Advancing American Freedom. The announcement, first reported by the Washington Examiner’s Rob Crilly, says the group’s mission is “to promote the pro-freedom policies of the last four years that created unprecedented prosperity at home and restored respect for America abroad, to defend those policies from liberal attacks and media distortions, and to prevent the radical Left from enacting its policy agenda that would threaten America’s freedoms.”

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That’s a pretty boilerplate description of a pro-Trump group. And the organization’s website could easily be mistaken for a Mike Pence for President campaign site, complete with a lovely biographical video. As a matter of fact, it looks exactly like a Mike Pence for President campaign site:

After that, though, Pence & Co. touch on a key mission both of Advancing American Freedom and many Republicans leaders — to be “in a unique position to merge traditional conservative values with the Make American Great Again policy agenda that propelled the nation to new economic heights, and unprecedented strength and prosperity.”

That’s it — the post-Trump synthesis. Now all Pence has to do is define it and put it into action.

For the group’s board, Pence has recruited a long list of “political and policy leaders from the Trump administration and the conservative movement.” There are a lot of people whose careers span both pre-Trump and post-Trump Republicanism: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; Arizona Governor Doug Ducey; former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Heritage Foundation founder and longtime leader Ed Feulner; close Trump aide Kellyanne Conway; top Trump economic advisor Larry Kudlow; Trump OMB Director Russ Vought; Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese; Club for Growth chief David McIntosh; former senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum; and several others. The group’s executive director is former Trump White House official Paul Teller. It is not hard to see them on a Pence for President committee, as well.

Creating a post-Trump synthesis will not be easy, in part because now-former President Donald Trump is still around and will be sending signals that he himself might run again in 2024. Trump told the Washington Examiner that he supports the new Pence group, although — no surprise — his statement had more to do with Trump than Pence. “It was the most successful first term in American history,” the former president said. “Nice to see Mike Pence highlighting some of our many achievements!”

But the fact is, a Trump run in 2024 is highly, highly unlikely, and Pence and all those Republicans preparing to run will have to do the work of creating a new Republican Party while Trump is being Trump. There will be a fine line to walk between acknowledging Trump’s accomplishments and their debt to him, and creating a Republican agenda going forward. It will be a difficult job, but somebody will figure out how to do it.

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