Pence touts "our" accomplishments in first remarks since leaving office
In first speech since leaving office, former Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday night highlighted what he saw as the accomplishments of the Trump administration while laying out what he called a "positive agenda for the Republican party. Pence's public reemergence — in an early primary state — came as President Joe Biden marked his first 100 days in office and fueled speculation about a 2024 run.
In speaking to the Palmetto Family Council, a South Carolina social conservative Christian group, Pence criticized Mr. Biden for what he called "an avalanche of liberal policies." He said the president wants to launch an "explosion of runaway spending" with his COVID relief plan, infrastructure proposal and the American Families Plan.
"I've had enough," Pence said. "After 100 days, I think the time has come for Americans devoted to faith and family and freedom and limited government to stand up and unite behind a positive agenda and win back America. And it starts right here and right now in South Carolina."
Pence also praised South Carolina Senator Tim Scott for the "positive vision" he outlined during his Republican rebuttal to Mr. Biden's address on Wednesday night.
Republicans, Pence said, need to "unite behind a positive agenda" that includes strong national defense, immigration policies that emphasize border security, appointing conservative justices and "upholding all of the God-given liberties enshrined in the Constitution." He called "election integrity" a critical issue, and one that should be left to the states, but did not repeat Mr. Trump's false claims that the election was stolen.
Thursday night's speech marked a turning point for Pence, who is expected to have an increased travel schedule moving forward, according to a senior aide. He'll likely be active on the campaign trail during the 2022 cycle to help Republicans try to win back the House and Senate.
"We have the winning agenda and now it's incumbent upon us to take that winning agenda to the American people," Pence said.
After the January 6 attack, Pence and former President Trump didn't meet for several days, but Pence told the crowd in South Carolina that serving in the administration was "the greatest honor of my life." Pence often used "we" and "our" when touting their accomplishments. He highlighted their work on jobs, immigration, foreign policy, judicial appointments and COVID-19 vaccines.
"It was four years of consequence, four years of results and four years of promises made and promises kept," Pence said.
While Pence had only positive things to say about his former boss on Thursday, Mr. Trump told top donors at a Republican National Committee retreat earlier this month that he was "disappointed" in Pence for confirming the results of the 2020 election, according to The Washington Post. A senior aide said Pence and the former President have a friendly relationship and have spoken often since they left office, including after Pence's recent heart surgery.
The former vice president made only one reference to the January 6 attack during the counting of Electoral College votes, referring to it as a "tragedy at our nation's Capitol."
Pence has already plotted out significant steps for his life after the Trump administration. Earlier this month he launched Advancing American Freedom, an organization that he said in a statement will "promote the pro-freedom policies of the last four years that created unprecedented prosperity at home and restored respect for America abroad." Former President Trump said in a brief statement to the Washington Examiner it is "nice to see Mike highlighting some of our many achievements!"
The former Vice President is also working with the Heritage Foundation, a prominent conservative think tank. He has published two columns with the group focused on election integrity and immigration. Pence is also set to launch a podcast later this year with Young America's Foundation (YAF), an organization run by former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. He is also YAF's Ronald Reagan Presidential Scholar and will join the campus lecture program.
The possibility of Mr. Trump running to reclaim the White House in 2024 looms large over the other Republican hopefuls who may consider running in 2024. He told conservative personality Dan Bongino on Wednesday that he'll likely make a decision after the 2022 election. On Thursday morning, he did an interview with Fox Business Network, where he repeated false claims that he won the 2020 election, and said he is "100%" considering running for President again.
Other potential 2024 presidential candidates have been making early moves: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is visiting Pennsylvania next month, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer; Senator Ted Cruz of Texas; Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri; former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Iowa in March; and Senators Rick Scott of Florida and Tim Scott of South Carolina, who gave the to President Biden's address to a joint session of Congress, also recently traveled to the Hawkeye State in recent weeks. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas is set to travel to Iowa at the end of June, as is former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Some of the potential 2024 contenders are attending a donor event in Texas next week that's partly organized by prominent GOP strategist Karl Rove, CNBC reported. CBS News has confirmed Pompeo and Senators Cotton and Rick Scott will be among the attendees.
In a sign of the former president's influence, Haley recently told reporters that she would back Mr. Trump if he ran in 2024 and wouldn't run for president.
Pence leaned heavily on his faith during the speech before the Christian conservative group and said he's optimistic about what's to come for the country.
"God isn't done with America yet," Pence said. "There is a future and the best days for the greatest nation on Earth are yet to come.
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