Vice President Pence on Thursday lambasted the Biden administration’s work in its first months in office and sought to position himself as a potential torchbearer of the conservative agenda moving forward in a speech to New Hampshire Republicans.
Pence’s speech at a Hillsborough County, N.H., GOP event marked his second time giving public remarks since leaving office in January. He first spoke at a conservative event in South Carolina in late April. Both speeches came in states that vote early in the GOP presidential primary process, events that have fueled speculation about Pence’s plans for 2024.
“I know the governor said he didn’t come here to bash the current administration. Well, I did,” Pence said with a laugh. “So buckle up.”
Pence pushed his conservative bonafides and sought to tie himself closely to the accomplishments of the Trump administration. He rattled off a list of policy priorities in place when he left office, including the appointment of conservative judges, tax cuts, regulatory rollbacks, investments in the military and the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
He contrasted that agenda with the Biden administration’s moves after five months in office. He pointed to the trillions of dollars in spending proposals from the White House and suggested tax increases to fund Biden’s infrastructure plan. Biden officials have been adamant Americans making less than $400,000 would not face tax hikes.
Pence also took a swing at Biden’s foreign policy, pointing to recent violence in the Middle East. He accused Biden of “eroding Second Amendment rights” with calls for gun control from the White House in the wake of the latest mass shootings. And Pence blasted the Biden administration for joining the “woke chorus” by suggesting there is systemic racism in law enforcement.
“I’m more confident than ever that victory is right around the corner. And not just the down ballot victories that you delivered in 2020, but victories up and down the ballot,” Pence said, predicting a GOP return to the majority in both chambers of Congress, similar to the 2010 midterms.
Pence focused in particular on cultural issues that have become standard talking points for conservatives. He came out strongly against the teaching of critical race theory in schools, a decision left to local jurisdictions, suggesting it “teaches children as young as kindergarten to be ashamed of the color of their skin” and falsely portrays America as a racist nation.
The former vice president leaned into voting bills passed in Florida, Georgia, Arizona and elsewhere that experts say will make it more difficult for some groups to vote. However, Pence said that these states “should be commended for passing a record number of election integrity bills this year.”
Those legislatures were moved to enact tougher voting laws after former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ seized phone records of New York Times reporters George P. Bush announces bid for Texas attorney general Liz Cheney spent K on security in months after Trump impeachment vote MORE repeated false claims that the 2020 vote was fraudulent. Democrats and some Republicans argue that his claims lead to the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, where a pro-Trump mob stormed the complex to try and halt the certification of Biden’s electoral victory.
Pence offered his lengthiest comments to date on the riot during his speech Thursday night.
“You know, President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office. And I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye to eye on that day. But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years,” Pence said to applause.
“And I will not allow Democrats or their allies in the media to use one tragic day to discredit the aspirations of millions of Americans, or allow Democrats or their allies in the media to distract our attention from a new administration intent on dividing our country to advance their radical agenda,” Pence continued. “My fellow, Republicans, for our country, for our future, for our children and our grandchildren, we must move forward, united.”
At the time of the riot, Pence was removed from the complex by security. Members of the mob inside the Capitol could be heard chanting about hanging Pence, according to bystander footage taken that day.
The comments highlighted the fine line Pence is attempting to walk as he considers a presidential run in 2024. Pence in his public remarks since leaving office has played up his role as Trump’s partner in the White House while simultaneously downplaying some of the former president’s more controversial remarks.
Pence has called for conservatives to unite around a positive agenda, and on Thursday he described the GOP as “the home party for the American agenda” as Democrats move farther left. Aides have said the former vice president will aim to boost the party in the midterms before making a final decision on a 2024 bid.
Still, Trump remains the most popular figure in the GOP, and the former president has teased a potential 2024 run. Trump is slated to speak Saturday at a North Carolina GOP event, and he will appear at a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) event next month in Texas.
A slew of other former Trump officials have also made clear their intentions to vie for the Republican nomination in 2024, including former Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike Pompeo9 Republicans not named Trump who could run in 2024 Another casualty of the pandemic: Journalists’ curiosity about the Wuhan lab US should not reopen the Jerusalem consulate MORE and former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki HaleyNikki HaleyVandalism at Rep. Mace’s home sparks bipartisan outcry 9 Republicans not named Trump who could run in 2024 Coalition of human rights groups calling for boycott of Beijing Olympics MORE.