America’s least favourite homophobe Mike Pence is a ‘strong contender’ for 2024

former vice president Mike Pence

Former vice president Mike Pence is already winning support from prominent Republican voices as he courts the religious right ahead of the 2024 election.

With the dust still settling on Donald Trump’s presidency, speculation is already rampant as to who will contest the 2024 election.

A second Trump run hasn’t be ruled out, with other prominent Republicans including Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley also expected to be in the running.

Mike Pence is also widely expected to contest the nomination, and appears to be gathering support among religious right leaders and organisations to lay the groundwork.

Republican state representative Jim Banks of Indiana told Associated Press he thinks that the former vice president would be a “strong contender” for a presidential nomination. Banks chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee and has already endorsed a Pence 2024 run.

“I think 2024’s a long time away and if Mike Pence runs for president, he will appeal to the Republican base in a way that will make him a strong contender,” Banks said. “If and when Mike Pence steps back up to the plate, I think he will have a strong appeal among Republicans nationwide.”

Republican strategist Alice Stewart, who worked for Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign, also told the AP that Pence could be a suitable candidate for a future presidential run. She said: “Anybody who can pull off an endorsement of Ted Cruz and become Donald Trump‘s vice presidential nominee should not be counted out.”

She said Pence has a “way of splitting hairs and threading the needle that has paid off in the past year”. Stewart explained that Pence will have to “make money, lay the groundwork” and “gauge the support” for a future run before he can “pull the trigger”.

Since leaving the office in January, Mike Pence has kept a fairly low profile.

His most high-profile move so far has been forging a partnership with the anti-LGBT+ conservative think tank Heritage Foundation. Pence joined as a distinguished visiting fellow and will reportedly advise Heritage experts on public policy issues and ensure the organisation “remains the leading conservative voice on solutions to America’s biggest challenges”.

Later this month, Pence will address a far-right anti-LGBT+ group in his first speech since leaving office. AP reported that Pence will speak to the Palmetto Family Council, a conservative Christian nonprofit organisation in South Carolina, on 29 April.

The Palmetto Family Council opposes abortion and lobbies for what it considers to be “biblical values” like heterosexual marriage.

Pence, who was the former governor of Indiana, is known for his fierce opposition to LGBT+ rights. Before same-sex marriage was legalised in the US, he stubbornly opposed marriage equality. As governor of Indiana, Pence signed a controversial bill that allowed organisations to refuse service to anyone on religious grounds.

He is also famous for his connections to the dangerous and discredited practise of conversion therapy. On an archived website for Pence’s 2000 congressional campaign website, he suggested that funding for HIV prevention programming should be diverted to organisations that “provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behaviour”. He later tried to deny that he “supported or advocated” the practice.