Former Vice President Mike Pence weighed in on Utah’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race Tuesday, officially endorsing Sen. Mike Lee in a video released by the incumbent’s campaign.
Standing shoulder to shoulder with Lee in the video, the former vice president urged Utahns to reelect Utah’s senior U.S. senator to a third term.
“… Now more than ever, we need strong, principled conservative leadership in the United States Senate. My hope and my prayer is that when we reelect Senator Mike Lee here in Utah, he’ll be part of a new Republican majority in the United States Senate to begin to steer our nation back to the policies that made our country strong and secure and prosperous during the Trump-Pence administration,” Pence said in his endorsement.
“Mike Lee is a man whose faith, whose dedication to his family and whose commitment to conservative principles is unparalleled in the United States Senate,” Pence continued. “And so I say to all the good people here in Utah, join me and my family and people all across this country in supporting the reelection of the only conservative in this race.”
You can see Lee’s remarks and Pence’s full endorsement here.
In a prepared statement, Lee expressed his gratitude to Pence.
“I’m honored to have the support of Vice President Pence, who shares my belief that this race is about protecting the right to life, reining in federal spending, and fighting for conservative values,” Lee said. “I’ve worked with Mike Pence as a congressman, governor, and vice president of the United States. I know him to be a principled conservative, and I’m grateful for his endorsement.”
Pence’s support is the latest in a long line of major endorsements received by the two-term incumbent. Former President Donald Trump, who is at odds with Pence for certifying Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, endorsed Lee last April. So did every Republican senator with one notable exception, Sen. Mitt Romney.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, one of Lee’s closest friends and most conservative allies in the Senate, is especially vocal in his support for Utah’s senior senator.
“It is a clever and manipulative way the Democrat Party has chosen not to run [a candidate] and is hoping to confuse and mislead a handful of moderate Republicans to, in effect, elect a Democrat and keep Chuck Schumer as majority leader in the Senate, which I think would be catastrophic for the country,” Cruz told The Tribune last week, referring to McMullin’s candidacy. “To lose Mike Lee in the Senate would be catastrophic, both for the nation and for Utah.”
Pence’s endorsement comes after a new poll shows the race between Lee and independent challenger Evan McMullin is tightening. A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics survey released Sept. 22 showed Lee clinging to a two-percentage-point margin over McMullin, 36% to 34%. The poll had an error rate of plus or minus 3.43 percentage points.
Matthew Burbank, a political science professor at the University of Utah, said Pence’s endorsement should help Lee, especially since the senator is viewed as a Trump Republican in a state where support for the former president is lackluster at best.
He said Pence, given his falling out with Trump, is seen by many as a more establishment Republican politician. So his support for Lee, he added, likely helps shore up the incumbent’s support with more moderate Republicans.
“This helps cement support among, for lack of a better term, the Gary Herbert kind of Republicans out there who are very keen on Mike Pence and would see this [endorsement] as a positive thing,” Burbank said.
McMullin’s campaign office declined to comment on Pence’s endorsement.