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GOP Candidates Turn to Pence to Broaden Appeal

'He takes a little bit of the edge off Masters with a lot of voters...'

(Headline USA) In Donald Trump’s assessment, Mike Pence “committed political suicide” on Jan. 6, 2021.

By refusing to go along with the then-president’s unconstitutional push to overturn the results of the 2020 election, Pence became a leading target of Trump’s wrath and a pariah in many Republican circles.

But, the final weeks of this year’s intensely competitive midterm elections suggest that the former vice president’s fortunes have shifted as he lays the groundwork for his own potential 2024 White House campaign.

The man who was booed last year at a conservative conference is now an in-demand draw for Republican candidates, including some who spent their primaries obsessively courting Trump’s endorsement, in part by parroting his election lies.

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Pence has traveled the country, holding events and raising millions for candidates and Republican groups, including signing fundraising solicitations for party committees.

For some campaigns in tight races, Pence is seen as something of a neutralizing agent who can help broaden their appeal beyond Trump’s core base of support. That’s the case in Arizona, with a critical Senate race this year and where the 2024 presidential campaign will be hotly contested.

Last week, Pence endorsed Senate nominee Blake Masters, who has struggled to pivot from the primary and win over moderates in a state where one-third of voters are registered independents.

“He takes a little bit of the edge off Masters with a lot of voters,” veteran GOP strategist Scott Reed said. “You know Masters is new to this, first-time candidate, said some silly things he probably regrets during the campaign. But now it’s all about undecided voters in Maricopa County. There’s not a lot more science behind this.”

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The endorsements can seem jarring given that Pence has spent much of the past year pushing back on Trump’s election lies, which spurred the violent mob that descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6 while Pence was trying to preside over the formal congressional certification of Joe Biden’s election victory.

Pence and members of his family had to be rushed to safety and were held for hours in an underground loading dock as the marauders roamed the building’s hallways. Some rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” and erected a makeshift gallows outside.

Pence agreed to endorse Masters even though Masters, during the primary, baselessly denied the 2020 election results. Masters recorded a video in which he said he thought Trump had won and claimed on his website that “if we had had a free and fair election, President Trump would be sitting in the Oval Office today.”

Trump endorsed Masters in June, saying in a statement: “Blake knows that the “Crime of the Century” took place, he will expose it and also, never let it happen again.”

Pence made no mention of that in Phoenix on Tuesday.

“What I came here to Arizona to say is not only is Blake Masters the right choice for the United States Senate, the people of Arizona deserve to know Blake Masters may be the difference between a Democrat majority in the Senate and a Republican majority in the Senate,” Pence said.

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