Former Vice President Mike Pence still won't say whether he's running for president next year, and he won't speak ill of his ex-boss, former President Donald Trump. But in an interview with CBS News in Michigan on Wednesday, he also twice declined to commit to supporting Trump if he is the Republican presidential nominee.
Instead, Pence said he believes voters in 2024 will choose "wisely again," as they did in 2016. But said he thinks "different times call for different leadership."
"I'm very confident we'll have better choices come 2024," he told CBS News political correspondent Caitlin Huey-Burns. "And I'm confident our standard-bearer will win the day in November of that year."
But if Pence does run, he's offering a vision of conservative principles and Trump-era like policies — without the Trump-era personality. The former vice president said his message in a speech to young voters in Michigan Wednesday was to "resist the temptation of focusing on personalities or embracing a populism unmoored to conservative principle."
"You know, I joined the Republican Party in the days of Ronald Reagan, and I really believe that the conservative movement has always been animated by ideas," Pence said. "We've had big personalities, from Reagan all the way to Donald Trump. But I think it's the ideas — of commitment to a strong national defense, fiscal responsibility, limited government and traditional values — that really I think created this movement in many ways and I think they still sustain it."
Pence said recently that he would make a decision on whether to run by "this spring," which now is just weeks away. On Wednesday, Pence said he and his wife, Karen, would continue to listen to the American people and should have a clear sense of whether he should run by this spring.
Pence told CBS News he and Karen are "continuing to give prayerful consideration to entering the race."
Asked if he wants to reflect a "pre-Trump Republican Party," Pence said he wants to be true to his calling in public life and would shun any campaign that wholly focuses on the negative.
"As I've traveled around the country, I've heard again and again that people look at the record of the Trump-Pence administration. They want to get back to our policies of a strong defense, American leadership in the world, a vibrant free-market economy, secure borders and conservative judges. But I also hear that they — they want to see us get back to the kind of civility in politics that the American people show each other every day."
Pence, asked if entitlement reform would be a key piece of his platform, laid out what a Pence platform could look like.
"My wife and I are continuing to give prayerful consideration to entering the race for the Republican nomination for president," Pence said. "But I can assure you that if we choose to run, we'll bring that broad conservative agenda that's characterized my life and my career before. That means a strong national defense, it means standing up for America's place as leader of the free world. Confronting aggression, whether it's in eastern Europe or standing strong in the Asia Pacific."
"But yes, it also means promoting policies that will get the economy growing again but also advancing policies that will set our national budget on a sustainable pathway," he continued. "I must say, the American people have a demonstrated ability to do hard things. But it's only been at those times in our history when we've had leaders that were willing to be straight with the American people. Tell them what the real challenges are, what the solutions are. And if I'm called into that contest, I'll speak just that way."
The former vice president also defended his decision to challenge a subpoena in from the special counsel overseeing investigations into efforts by Trump and Trump allies to alter the results of the 2020 presidential election. Pence's team argues it's unconstitutional to compel a former vice president to testify in the case, although some legal scholars disagree.
"The notion of compelling a former vice president to appear in court to testify against the president with whom they served is unprecedented, but I also believe it's unconstitutional," Pence said, adding that he's "limited in what I can say about those proceedings."
The former vice president also declined to criticize other potential or declared candidates, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. But he did disagree with former Gov. Nikki Haley's position that there should be a competency test for politicians over 75 years of age.
"I come from southern Indiana, where people think most politicians should have a competency test," Pence joked.
"No, I think the American people can sort that out. I really do," he added.
The full interview with former Vice President Mike Pence airs on CBS News' "Red & Blue."