First look: Pence ramps up political moves
Former Vice President Mike Pence's advocacy group plans to spend $10 million on TV ads targeting vulnerable House Democrats on energy policy and Ukraine, Axios has learned.
Why it matters: Pence contrasted himself against Trump last week, slamming the GOP’s "apologists" for Putin. Now he’s using the Russian invasion to trash Democrats.
Between the lines: The new ad buy from his group, Advancing American Freedom, shows Pence is working to shore up a political brand independent of the former President Trump.
- Pence has been raising his profile — delicately but more directly drawing contrasts with Trump. Now, he's spending serious coin.
- The $10 million buy is the most expensive move by a 2024 GOP contender not named Donald Trump.
What's happening: The ads begin airing Monday. They're targeting 16 House Democrats in competitive re-election fights this year. Pence's name, voice and image don't appear in the spot previewed by Axios.
- The narrator declares: "Joe Biden caved to the radical environmentalists and stopped America’s Keystone Pipeline and dramatically increased Americans’ dependence on Russian oil, endangering America’s security and helping Russia fund their invasion."
- Viewers are urged to call their member of Congress and "tell [the Democratic incumbent] to support America’s security instead of Russia’s terror."
Between the lines: The ad is a twofer, hitting a pair of issues — Ukraine and energy prices — currently dominating headlines.
- It's also a space where Pence sees room to differentiate himself from fringier elements in his own party.
In remarks at an RNC donor retreat on Friday, he knocked Republican "apologists for Putin," CNN reported.
- That came after a February speech to the Federalist Society in which Pence took on Trump directly, saying the former president "is wrong" to say Pence had the power to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
What's next: The expenditure for the ad campaign could grow as events in Ukraine develop, a source familiar with the group's plans tells Axios.