‘Where did that guy come from?’ Pence nets post-debate fundraising bump

Mike Pence is getting a second look from some GOP donors following his uncharacteristically combative performance in last week’s debate.

At a Monday fundraiser hosted by the oil tycoon Forrest Lucas, the former vice president raked in $250,000 — one of his largest single-event fundraising hauls since announcing his campaign in June.

“The comments were, ‘Gosh, you look like you had a little fight in you, we love seeing it, where did that guy come from,’” said Victor Smith, who served as Pence’s secretary of commerce when he was Indiana governor, of the feedback Pence received from among approximately 80 attendees.

The fundraiser was held at Lucas’ sprawling Indiana estate in Carmel, Pence’s adopted hometown since moving back from Washington, D.C., in 2021. Tickets to a private roundtable sold for $6,600 per person, while reception tickets went for $1,000. The host committee included Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, Rep. Larry Bucshon and Fred Klipsch, the stereo magnate, among others.

“He’s now redefining who he is,” said Smith, a Pence backer who has maxed out to the Hoosier candidate. “He just needs to stay under the hoop.”

In a memo to donors following the debate, Pence campaign manager Steve DeMaura wrote that even after weathering two years of attacks from Trump, “Our strategy is not sexy. It does not take $150 million today. And does not involve trying to be a Trump clone or single-mindedly running to repudiate him.” The campaign did not disclose whether Pence saw a post-debate bump among small-dollar donors.

Pence’s allied super PAC, Committed to America, also saw a spike in fundraising. The PAC saw an additional $250,000 flow in the day after the debate, Mike Ricci, a spokesperson, told POLITICO.

Pence has been polling in single digits in the primary, though post-debate polling has yet to be released. In Iowa, the first-in-the-nation caucus state, he was bunched up at 6 percent with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in the recent Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll. But the fundraising bump is noteworthy for a candidate some pundits have left for political dead.

Pence, among the later candidates to announce, has already qualified for the second GOP debate, surpassing the donor and polling thresholds not long after he qualified for the first. Pence’s Advancing American Freedom nonprofit built a pool of 140,000 donors prior to his presidential campaign, many of whom are donating to him now.

Some dire headlines just last month raised concerns about his fundraising ability, but some of Pence’s biggest donors say they expected the timing of his candidacy would mean he would qualify for the first debate later than other candidates.

“He raised a substantial amount of money in a short period of time and did it in a couple of weeks, but it took Nikki Haley and the other candidates months,” said Art Pope, the former chair of Americans for Prosperity and a Raleigh, N.C.-based Pence donor.

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