Former President Donald Trump and his estranged vice president, Mike Pence, are holding rival campaign events in Arizona on Friday, turning the governor's race into a broader referendum on the Republican Party's future.
Pence talked up the successes of what he called the Trump-Pence administration but did not directly address his growing feud with the former president as he urged voters to support Karrin Taylor Robson for governor.
"If you elect Robson," Pence said, “you can hear a deafening message heard all across America that the Republican Party is the party of the future."
The remark appeared to be an oblique critique of the Republicans still pushing the lie that Trump was the real winner in 2020, including Robson's rival, Kari Lake, a former television anchor who has embraced Trump's combative approach to his political enemies and the media.
Trump was scheduled to hold an evening rally in Prescott Valley on behalf of Lake and other candidates he has endorsed in Arizona's August 2 primary.
Robson is a lawyer and housing developer who is locking up support from mainstream GOP figures growing increasingly comfortable with breaking from Trump. Her supporters also include former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and term-limited Gov. Doug Ducey, who famously silenced a call from Trump while certifying Democrat Joe Biden's 2020 presidential victory in Arizona.
Trump and Pence have occasionally taken different sides in primaries this year, but this is the first time that they will have appeared in the same state on the same day to rally for their preferred candidates. The split-screen moment marks a more confrontational phase in their relationship as they both consider running for president in 2024.
It also comes just a day after the House Jan. 6 committee revealed new details about the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that fractured the relationship between the two men. The committee recounted how Trump refused to call off the mob attacking the Capitol as Pence, just feet away from rioters, was whisked to safety.
The committee played audio from an unidentified White House security official who said Pence's Secret Service agents “started to fear for their own lives” at the Capitol and left messages for their loved ones in case they didn't survive. Shortly afterward, at 2:24 p.m. on Jan, 6, 2021, Trump tweeted that Pence didn't have the “courage” to block or delay the election results as Congress was certifying Biden's victory.
“Mike Pence let me down,” an unidentified White House employee testified Trump telling him at the end of the day on Jan. 6.
Trump and Pence will again cross paths next week as the former president returns to the nation's capital for the first time since leaving the White House.
The Arizona primary is among Trump's last opportunities to settle scores and install allies to lead states that may prove decisive if he decides to run again in 2024. Trump and Pence were also at odds in the primary for Georgia governor, where the Pence-backed incumbent Brian Kemp easily defeated former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who had Trump's support.
Arizona, a longtime Republican stronghold whose move toward the center accelerated during Trump's presidency, was central to Trump's push to remain in power despite his loss. Trump pressed state officials to block the certification of Biden's victory and, when he failed, his allies in Congress objected to counting the state's 11 electoral votes.
Since the election, Trump supporters have recounted ballots and analyzed vote-counting machines in an attempt to prove something was amiss.
Federal and state election officials and Trump's own attorney general have said there is no credible evidence the election was tainted. Trump's allegations of fraud were also roundly rejected by courts, including by judges Trump appointed.
(Inputs from PTI)