Pence, eyeing 2024 presidential bid, launches group to defend Trump-era policies from “liberal attacks and media distortions”

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Former Vice President Mike Pence is beginning to reemerge after the end of the Trump administration with the launch of a new group to counter the policies of the Biden administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress.

The former vice president has mostly kept out of public view since Inauguration Day, focusing mostly on some early work with conservative organizations and the arrival of a new grandchild. But on Wednesday, he launched Advancing American Freedom, an entity, he said in a statement, that would “promote the pro-freedom policies of the last four years that created unprecedented prosperity at home and restored respect for America abroad.” 

The new group will enable Pence to maintain his political profile and serve as his vehicle to help defend Trump-era policies. A senior aide said the former vice president is likely to focus especially on the Biden administration’s evolving immigration and border security policies and the current president’s proposal to raise corporate tax rates to pay for a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure plan.

According to the senior aide, who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the plans, the new group is designed to “merge traditional conservative values with the Make America Great agenda.”

Successfully executing that merger in the coming years will be essential for any Republican not named Donald Trump who’s thinking about running for president in 2024. As the GOP awaits a decision by the former president about whether or not he’ll join the contest, several other Trump-aligned GOP leaders are making early moves: Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who’s traveled in recent weeks to Iowa; Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who’s earning plaudits from conservative leaders for his management of the coronavirus pandemic in his state; Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton; Texas Senator Ted Cruz; and Missouri Senator Josh Hawley. Others outside the Trump sphere of influence, including Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, are also mulling White House bids.

But Pence’s new group comes with the blessing of Trump, who in a brief statement to the Washington Examiner on Wednesday called his first term “the most successful” in American history, adding: “Nice to see Mike highlighting some of our many achievements!”

Pence’s group is backed by a who’s who of Trump-era players and other conservative leaders. It will be led by Paul Teller, a former aide to Cruz and co-chaired by longtime Pence aides Marty Obst and Marc Short and Chip Saltsman, a South Carolina-based former aide to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaigns.

The group’s board of directors includes former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, top Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow, former Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Callista and Newt Gingrich, Ed Meese and Rick Santorum. The current governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey is also advising the group, along with former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Kay James, the president of the Heritage Foundation — a conservative think tank for whom Pence is a distinguished visiting fellow — and two of the group’s former presidents, Jim DeMint and Ed Fuelner, are also on board. 

The launch of the new group comes ahead of the former vice president’s first public appearance, a speech before a Christian conservative group scheduled for April 29 in Columbia, South Carolina. He is also scheduled to attend a private fundraiser for the Heritage Foundation in Arizona earlier that week, aides said.

Pence’s announcement comes on the same day as former Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller announced plans to launch an unrelated group, America First Legal, designed to mount legal challenges to Biden administration policies.