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Pence and His Group, Pushing Conservative Causes, Keep a 2024 Dream Alive

As he travels the country publicly backing Republican candidates and conservative causes ahead of the midterm elections, former Vice President Mike Pence has also been quietly huddling with donors and building a political operation that could serve as a springboard to a 2024 presidential campaign.

Mr. Pence held a retreat with donors and allies at a Utah ski resort over the course of three days late last month that was organized by a nonprofit group he has used to highlight causes animating social conservatives. Those priorities include restricting abortion access, expanding the role of religion in public life, barring transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports, and fighting corporate social and environmental initiatives.

At the retreat, Mr. Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, mingled with major donors of the sort whose support would be critical to a presidential bid.

One donor, Art Pope, a North Carolina businessman, said, “I personally would like to see him run for president,” but he added that there had been no formal discussions about it.

Instead, donors were treated to panels featuring high-profile conservative figures discussing some of those hot-button Republican causes, according to an attendee, as well as an appearance by the Fox News host Sean Hannity and the debut of a slick campaign-style video paid for by Mr. Pence’s group, Advancing American Freedom.

Tensions have been growing between Mr. Pence and his former boss, Donald J. Trump. They have endorsed opposing candidates in several Republican primary races this year, and Mr. Trump has repeatedly criticized Mr. Pence for refusing to delay the certification of the 2020 election results hours after the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

And as Mr. Trump teases his intent to run for president again in 2024 despite facing mounting investigations of his business, his handling of classified material and his role in the Capitol attack, he has signaled that he would choose a different running mate, saying that Mr. Pence committed “political suicide” on Jan. 6.

In a New York Times/Siena College poll of Republican voters in July, only 6 percent said they would vote for Mr. Pence if he ran for the 2024 G.O.P. presidential nomination, compared with 49 percent who said they would back Mr. Trump and 25 percent who supported Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

Another prospective candidate, Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, held his own donor retreat last month.

Mr. Pence has walked a tricky line as he tries to set himself apart from what many in the G.O.P. see as Mr. Trump’s worst impulses.


How Times reporters cover politics. We rely on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they are not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.

The former vice president has said that Mr. Trump is “wrong” that Mr. Pence had the legal authority to override the results of the election, and has urged Republicans to accept the outcome and look toward the future.

At the same time, two of Mr. Pence’s top aides testified to a federal grand jury in Washington as part of the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the events surrounding the riot.

The campaign-style video released by Advancing American Freedom at the retreat includes footage of Mr. Pence and Mr. Trump together during their time in office, and refers to the “Trump-Pence administration.” But it also features Mr. Pence declaring in a speech that “conservatives need to be focused on the challenges Americans are facing today and offer a bold and positive agenda.”

According to the attendee, the retreat included panels on so-called cancel culture, with the right-wing commentator Candace Owens; on the future of the anti-abortion movement after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade; and on energy policy, with David Bernhardt, a former interior secretary in the Trump administration who oversaw the rollback of environmental policies opposed by the oil and gas industry.

Another panel featured the conservative investor Vivek Ramaswamy discussing efforts to push back against corporations that promote their commitment to environmental, social and governance causes, known as E.S.G., that generally align with a Democratic agenda. That opposition, which Mr. Pence has written about, has gained traction as an issue on the right.

Advancing American Freedom, which was created in April 2021, is registered under a section of the tax code that does not require the group to reveal its donors or much information about its finances. It has yet to file an annual report with the I.R.S. that will show top-line financial figures.

Advancing American Freedom said it had raised more than $10 million to date, and it announced at the retreat that it was planning a $35 million budget for 2023 for the group and a sister organization.

Its money can be used to pay for a political operation for Mr. Pence in advance of a potential presidential bid, but its primary purpose cannot be supporting electoral campaigns by him or anyone else.

The group has hired aides, waded into court fights over abortion rules and spent millions of dollars on ads attacking Democratic candidates.

Mr. Pence also maintains a political action committee that has raised more than $920,000 this cycle and has helped fund his political efforts.

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