Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice-president, announces White House run

<span>Photograph: Dave Kaup/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Dave Kaup/Reuters

Mike Pence, who as Donald Trump’s vice-president narrowly escaped harm at the hands of the January 6 rioters, launched his run for the Republican presidential nomination next year, pitting him against his former boss.

Pence filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday afternoon and released his official campaign launch video early on Wednesday. His formal launch event was planned to take place in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday – his 64th birthday.

He posted the video on Twitter on Wednesday, writing: “I believe in the American people, and I have faith God is not done with America yet. Together, we can bring this Country back, and the best days for the Greatest Nation on Earth are yet to come!”

The video includes patriotic images and shots of a pensive Pence. He declares: “My family and I have been blessed beyond measure with opportunities to serve this nation and it would be easy to stand on the sidelines, but that’s now how I was raised and that’s why, before God and my family, I’m announcing that I’m running for president of the United State. We can bring this country back.”

He attacked the Democratic administration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, showing clips of the president and vice president and warning about the “radical left” that “recession is looming”, the US-Mexico border is “under siege” and “the American dream is being crushed under runaway inflation”, lamenting a “weakened America” at home and abroad.

The former congressman and Indiana governor, an evangelical conservative, enters a primary dominated by Trump, who enjoys commanding polling leads, well clear of his nearest challenger, the rightwing Florida governor, Ron DeSantis.

A Pence run has long been expected but he has not registered significantly in polling, generally contesting third place with the former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley.

Other declared candidates include the South Carolina senator Tim Scott, the former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson and Vivek Ramaswamy, a biotech entrepreneur.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence on 2 November 2020, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Donald Trump and Mike Pence on 2 November 2020, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Pence was governor of Indiana when Trump picked him as his running mate in 2016, a move widely seen as an attempt to reassure evangelical and socially conservative voters alarmed by the brash New York business mogul.

Trump’s controversies and vulgarities soon tested the bond. Pence reportedly considering leaving the ticket – or replacing Trump at the top of it – amid the Access Hollywood scandal, in which Trump was recorded boasting about assaulting women.

But Pence did not quit and through Trump’s four years in power he maintained an unflaggingly loyal – many said obsequious – stance at his president’s side.

Reports of plots to replace Pence in 2020 were common, however, and whatever bond existed between the two men was finally broken by Trump’s refusal to accept his conclusive defeat by Joe Biden.

Pence resisted attempts to have him refuse to certify electoral college results on 6 January 2021, while fulfilling a ceremonial role in Congress.

When the mob Trump sent to the Capitol broke in, some chanting “Hang Mike Pence” while a makeshift gallows was erected outside, Pence was whisked to safety by his Secret Service detail.

Trump did nothing to call off the mob but Pence did not leave the Capitol. Eventually, the vice-president presided over certification.

In a series of public hearings and a published final report, the House January 6 committee presented Pence as a hero of its tale while making four criminal referrals of Trump to the justice department.

In the investigation of Trump’s attempted election subversion by the special counsel Jack Smith, Pence first fought then acquiesced to demands for testimony to a grand jury.

According to witnesses, Trump said the mob might have been right to chant for Pence to be hanged. Two and a half years on, Trump still blames Pence for January 6, which is now linked to nine deaths, more than a thousand arrests and hundreds of convictions, some for seditious conspiracy.

Pence has said: “President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election, and his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”

Related: So Help Me God review: Mike Pence’s tortured bid for Republican relevance

Like Trump, Pence has been the subject of an investigation into classified documents found in his possession after he left power. Unlike with Trump, the Pence investigation, of a vastly smaller scale, closed with no charges filed.

Pence has charted a painful path away from the man he served. But many observers question the depth of his independence.

Last July, Miles Taylor, a former homeland security official who turned against Trump, told CNN: “If you want to know what the Mike Pence vice-presidency was like, Mike Pence is a guy with an erect posture and flaccid conscience.

“He stood up tall but he did not stand up to Donald Trump.”