Trump, Pence rivalry intensifies as they consider 2024 runs

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Trump, Pence rivalry intensifies as they consider 2024 runs

By JILL COLVIN22 minutes ago

FILE - Then-President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Gerald R. Ford International Airport, Nov. 2, 2020, in Grand Rapids, Mich., with then-Vice President Mike Pence (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

FILE – Then-President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Gerald R. Ford International Airport, Nov. 2, 2020, in Grand Rapids, Mich., with then-Vice President Mike Pence (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence is becoming increasingly brazen in his willingness to counter former President Donald Trump.

The two will hold dueling events in Arizona on Friday as they stump for rival candidates who offer dramatically different visions of the Republican Party in a critical battleground state. Days later, they will once again cross paths as they deliver major speeches on the same day in Washington, D.C.

The encounters mark a more confrontational phase in the fraught relationship between the former running mates and once close confidantes who could soon find themselves competing against one another in the 2024 GOP presidential primary if they both ultimately choose to run.

“I think this is a continuation of the larger message that Pence is trying to embody here, which is the Republican Party should look to the future,” said Scott Jennings, a longtime party strategist. “This is going to be the existential question for the Republican Party: Are we going to listen to a slightly different view than Donald Trump’s? Right now, the standard-bearer for this is Mike Pence.”

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That description marks a striking turnaround for Pence, who spent his four years in the White House as Trump’s most loyal defender. But Trump turned on his vice president when Pence refused to go along with his unconstitutional efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, putting Pence in the crosshairs of a violent mob on Jan. 6.

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Now Pence, who has repeatedly defended his actions that day, is taking a more active effort to shape the future of the party. This week, Pence endorsed Karrin Taylor Robson in Arizona’s Republican gubernatorial primary, pitting himself against Trump, who has endorsed Kari Lake, a former newscaster who has embraced Trump’s election lies.

“As Arizona Democrats pursue the reckless Biden-Harris agenda, Karrin Taylor Robson is the only candidate for Governor that will keep Arizona’s border secure and streets safe, empower parents and create great schools, and promote conservative values,” Pence said in a statement announcing his decision.

Pence backed Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a top Trump target who easily defeated the former president’s hand-picked challenger this spring. But Pence’s Arizona move showed a willingness to weigh in on a closer and open race in alliance with the state’s outgoing GOP governor, Doug Ducey, who also rebuffed Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.

Pence is planning to campaign with Robson in Phoenix and southern Arizona Friday — the same day that Trump is set to headline a rally for Lake that was rescheduled after the death of his first wife, Ivana Trump. Matt Benson, a Robson’s campaign spokesman, said Pence would be attending an event at a local employer and attend a briefing on border security while in the state.

A Trump spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment on the events.

Trump and Pence will again cross paths next week as the former president returns to the nation’s capital for the first time since leaving the White House. Pence will address the conservative Heritage Foundation on Monday evening and will speak at the Young America’s Foundation’s annual National Conservative Student Conference on Tuesday morning. That afternoon, Trump will headline a two-day summit organized by the America First Policy Institute.

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Pence will use his speech before the Heritage Foundation to highlight the policy agenda he released earlier and talk about the future of the party, according to aides. The remarks are expected to offer an implicit contrast with Trump, who has spent much of his energy since leaving office on relitigating the 2020 election.

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