Mike Pence staffs up with an eye on 2024

Former Vice President Mike Pence is building out his political staff, the latest indication that he’s prepping a White House bid that will pit him against his former boss, ex-President Donald Trump.

Ali Kjergaard, a spokesperson for outgoing Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, has been tapped to serve as communications director for Advancing American Freedom, a Pence-aligned non-profit organization that is serving as the former vice president’s campaign-in-waiting. Those familiar with the hiring process say two additional communications officials are expected to be added sometime early next year. Pence’s team is also looking to bring on fundraising aides.

The staffing additions are the latest step Pence has taken toward launching a 2024 bid. Last week, he released a memoir and made an appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Las Vegas, an event that attracted a handful of prospective presidential aspirants. The former vice president spent the last year campaigning across the country for Republican candidates in the midterm election – including in early GOP nominating states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

Pence is expected to continue his political travel into the new year, with a trip to New Hampshire among the potential stops. A Christian evangelical, Pence is also slated to embark on a tour of mega-churches.

So far, the Pence operation totals around two dozen staff and consultants, a group that includes his former chief of staff, Marc Short, and former press secretary, Devin O’Malley, and a veteran GOP strategist, Chip Saltsman. All three are likely to play roles in a 2024 bid.

Since leaving office, Pence has been leaning on two political vehicles, a political action committee dubbed Great America PAC, and Advancing American Freedom, a 501c4 policy nonprofit. Earlier this fall, Advancing American Freedom hosted a retreat in Utah that was attended by major donors including North Carolina businessman Art Pope.

Looming over all of Pence’s moves is Trump, who announced his 2024 comeback bid last week on the same day that the former vice president released his memoir.

Pence has repeatedly expressed a willingness to break with Trump, going so far as to say Republicans will have “better choices” than Trump in 2024. And during his appearance before the RJC last week, Pence said that Republicans need to be a “party that keeps our oath to the constitution even when political expediency may suggest we do otherwise” — an implicit reference to Pence’s decision to rebuff Trump’s pressure for him to not certify the 2020 election results.

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