HomePoliticsPence hits Trump with strongest attacks yet

Pence hits Trump with strongest attacks yet

Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence pauses as he publicly announces and kicks off his campaign for the 2024 Republican U.S. presidential nomination, at a Future Farmers of America “enrichment center” in Ankeny, Iowa, U.S. June 7, 2023. 

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Former Vice President Mike Pence jumped into the 2024 presidential race Wednesday with a multi-pronged attack on Donald Trump, his former boss and the current front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination.

But even as he tore into Trump at greater length and in harsher terms than he ever has before, Pence touted his record in the “Trump-Pence administration,” highlighting the challenges faced by his long-shot campaign.

“When Donald Trump ran for president in 2016 he promised to govern as a conservative. Together we did just that,” Pence, who turned 64 on Wednesday, said in a kickoff speech in Iowa. “Today, he makes no such promise.”

Pence entered the race later than most of his Republican competitors. Beyond Trump, Pence is competing against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and a host of other names.

Pence, who filed paperwork Monday to officially launch his campaign, also directly addressed his falling out with Trump after their losing campaign to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in 2020.

Trump had pushed Pence to try to overturn their loss by rejecting key Electoral College votes while Pence was presiding over Congress in a ceremonial role on Jan. 6, 2021. Pence refused, and Trump denounced him for lacking the “courage” to challenge the already-certified election results.

A violent mob, spurred by Trump’s lies about widespread election fraud, stormed the U.S. Capitol, forcing Pence and members of Congress to flee for their safety.

“President Trump’s words were reckless. They endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol,” Pence said. “The American people deserve to know that on that day, President Trump also demanded that I choose between him and the Constitution.”

“I chose the Constitution, and I always will,” Pence said. “My former running mate continues to insist that I had the right to overturn the election. President Trump was wrong then and he is wrong now.”

“I have often prayed for him in the past few years,” Pence said, “I had hoped he would come around and see that he had been misled about my role that day. But that was not to be,” he added.

“I believe that anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States. And anyone who asks someone else to put them over the Constitution should never be president of the United States again,” Pence said.

Falling out

Pence, who preaches a more traditional brand of Republican social conservatism than Trump and another top contender, DeSantis, also took aim at Trump over his reluctance to take a hard stance on abortion.

“After leading the most pro-life administration in American history, Donald Trump and others in this race are retreating from the cause of the unborn,” Pence said.

The highly polarizing issue became a central component of the 2022 midterm elections, following the Supreme Court ruling overturning the longstanding constitutional right to abortion. Democrats broadly outperformed Republicans, expanding their Senate majority and suffering smaller-than-expected losses in the House.

But Pence lamented that Trump treats abortion “as an inconvenience, even blaming election losses on overturning Roe v. Wade.”

Pence served more than a decade in the U.S. House and one term as governor of Indiana before becoming Trump’s running mate in his winning 2016 presidential campaign. He was seen as one of Trump’s most loyal aides for all four years of his term.

But following their break over the 2020 election results, Pence has lost favor with a segment of Republican voters. Trump, meanwhile, remains the party’s de facto leader, holding a commanding lead in polls of the primary race.

Pence’s poll numbers are better than some of his competitors’ but have mostly hovered around the low- to mid-single digits in surveys of the prospective primary field.



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