Former Vice President Mike Pence is set to headline a major event next month for a conservative Christian organization in South Carolina, an appearance likely to stoke speculation about his own presidential ambitions.
A Pence spokesman confirms the former vice president is set to speak April 29 at a dinner hosted by the Palmetto Family Council, a Christian organization pushing for religious freedoms, anti-abortion rights policies and other conservative positions. The event usually draws about 1,000 attendees, a large audience for what would be the former vice president's first public remarks since leaving office in late January. Dave Wilson, president and executive council of the Palmetto Family Council, said Pence's appearance helps remind South Carolinians about their state's unique role in picking presidents. His scheduled appearance "gives people a reason to recognize how important it is for us to engage at every level of the political spectrum. That's where the biggest impact takes place."
"If this raises some 2024 chatter, well, so be it," said South Carolina Republican State Senator Josh Kimbrell, who was among those who had invited Pence to speak at the event.
Wilson and Kimbrell say they've heard from several potential 2024 GOP presidential candidates.
Kimbrell supports a potential Pence presidential campaign and is unconcerned about the possibility of drawing the ire of former President Donald Trump, who has not yet said whether he might run in 2024.
"This is not in any way against the former president; it's just favorable to the former vice president," Kimbrell said. "I don't think either of them have made their plans clear."
Several recent surveys show Pence holding a commanding lead over the potential Republican presidential field if Trump forgoes another campaign. When Mr. Trump is included in the poll, Pence usually holds a strong second-place position.
Pence declined an invitation to speak last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida, telling organizers he would be taking more time before speaking out publicly.
Since leaving office, Pence has held private meetings with Republican lawmakers and is doing work for the Heritage Foundation and Young America's Foundation. He is also working with FOX Nation, Fox News Channel's on-demand streaming platform, on a digital documentary recounting the life and legacy of radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
News of Pence's South Carolina trip was first reported by The Associated Press.
Asked about the other calls he's fielding from potential 2024 candidates, Kimbrell said he'd respect their privacy, but offered, "I do know there are several."
Wilson said his group wants "to help anyone who is interested in having a conversation with South Carolinians about South Carolina values, about our view in politics."
Editor's note: This article originally cited the date of former Vice President Pence's speech as April 24. The event is April 29, and the report has been updated.