AP

Pence opens presidential bid with denunciation of Trump over Jan. 6 insurrection and abortion

Jun 7, 2023, 2:56 PM

Republican presidential candidate former Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen arrives to sp...

Republican presidential candidate former Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen arrives to speak at a campaign event, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in Ankeny, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

ANKENY, Iowa (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence opened his bid for the Republican nomination for president Wednesday with a firm denunciation of former President Donald Trump, accusing his two-time running mate of abandoning conservative principles and being guilty of dereliction of duty on Jan. 6, 2021.

On that perilous day, Pence said, as Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol and the president falsely insisted his vice president could overturn the election results, Trump “demanded I choose between him and our Constitution. Now voters will be faced with the same choice.”

Pence, launching his campaign at a community college in a suburb of Des Moines, became the first vice president in modern history to challenge the president under whom he served. While he spent much of his speech criticizing Democratic President Joe Biden and the direction he has taken the country, he also addressed Jan. 6 head-on, saying Trump had disqualified himself when he declared falsely that Pence had the power to keep him in office.

Trump’s statements about mass voting fraud led a mob of his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol, sending Pence and his family scrambling for safety as some in the crowd chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!”

“I believe anyone that 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 Sates again,” the former vice president said.

Pence has spent much of the past two-and-a-half-years grappling with fallout from that day as he has tried to chart a political future in a party that remains deeply loyal to Trump and filled with many who still believe Trump’s lies that the 2020 election was stolen and that Pence somehow could reject the results.

While Pence has criticized Trump, working to step out of the former president’s shadow while laying the groundwork for his own run, he has generally done so obliquely, reflecting Trump’s continued popularity in the party. But Wednesday, as Pence made his pitch to voters for the first time as a declared candidate, he did not hold his tongue.

He accused the former president of abandoning the conservative values he ran on, including on abortion.

Pence, who supports a national ban on the procedure, said, “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. The sanctity of life has been our party’s calling for half a century — long before Donald Trump was a part of it. Now he treats it as an inconvenience, even blaming our election losses in 2022 on overturning Roe v. Wade.”

Trump has declined to say what limits he supports nationally and has blamed some midterm candidates’ strong rhetoric for their losses last November.

Pence also bemoaned the current politics of “grudges and grievances,” saying the country needs leaders who know the difference between the “politics of outrage and standing firm.”

“We will restore a threshold of civility in public life,” he pledged

Trump did not immediately respond to the speech, but his supporters shot back.

“The question most GOP voters are asking themselves about Pence’s candidacy is ‘Why?’” said Karoline Leavitt, a spokeswoman for a Trump-backing super PAC.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie files paperwork for 2024 Republican presidential bid

With Pence’s entry into the race, on his 64th birthday, the GOP field is largely set. It includes Trump, who’s leading in early polls, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who remains in second, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Pence’s campaign will test the party’s appetite for a socially conservative, mild-mannered and deeply religious candidate who has criticized the populist tide that has swept through his party under Trump. Pence, in many ways, represents a throwback to a party from days past. Unlike Trump and DeSantis, he argues cuts to Social Security and Medicare must be on the table and has blasted those who have questioned why the U.S. should continue to send aid to Ukraine to counter Russian aggression.

Pence and his advisers see Iowa — the state that will cast the first votes of the GOP nominating calendar — as key to his pathway to the nomination. Its caucusgoers include a large portion of evangelical Christian voters, whom they see as a natural constituency for Pence, a social conservative who often talks about his faith.

But Pence faces steep challenges. Despite being one of the best-known Republican candidates in the crowded field, he is viewed skeptically by voters on both the left and the right. Trump critics consider him complicit in the former president’s most indefensible actions, while many Trump loyalists have maligned him as a traitor, partly to blame for denying the president a second term.

A CNN poll conducted last month found 45% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they would not support Pence under any circumstance. And in Iowa, a March Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found Pence with higher unfavorable ratings than all of the other candidates it asked about, including Trump and DeSantis.

But Pence, who has visited Iowa more than a dozen times since leaving office, has been warmly welcomed by voters during his trips.

His Wednesday audience in an auditorium decorated with red, white and blue balloons included a number of Iowa Republican officials, including former Iowa Rep. Greg Ganske, whose time in Congress overlapped briefly with Pence’s.

“I’m here because we’re friends,” said Ganske who represented the Des Moines area in the House. Still, he said he hadn’t figured out who he was going to support in the caucuses. “We have a lot of good candidates,” he said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis launches 2024 presidential campaign to challenge Trump

John Steuterman, a 44-year-old insurance executive, said he was drawn to Pence’s experience in the White House and was “tired of the negativity” another Trump term would bring.

“Mike Pence is a decent man. He seems like a regular guy, as much of a regular guy who has been at the center of the executive decision-making of the most powerful country in the world,” he said.

But asked whether Steuterman was locked in for Pence in the leadoff caucuses, where Pence’s fortunes rest, he demurred.

“I’m not married to the idea, but I’m going to watch and listen and I’m going to follow this guy,” he said.

It was the same for Dave Bubeck, who lives in Grimes and praised Pence as “a super professional guy,” “statesmanlike,” and “a man of high character” — with the capacity to serve as president. “But I think there’s other good candidates,” too, he said, adding he would “wait and see how it all shakes out.”

Asked why he wasn’t sold on Pence, Bubeck said, “Maybe he’s a little too nice. … I don’t know if he’s tough enough for what we need right now. That would be my hesitancy.”

Pence’s decision to focus on Jan. 6 reflects his advisers’ strategy that the Capitol attack has to be confronted directly.

In an interview with Fox News Channel after the announcement, Pence said he believes the more people hear his explanation for his actions, the more they’ll see he was acting in the country’s best interest.

His argument resonated with Ruth Ehler, a retired teacher from West Des Moines who attended the speech.

“The Constitution is the document of our country and I stood by him on Jan. 6 when he followed the Constitution. If that’s where he feels he differs from our past president, it’s a great point for him to make,” Ehler said.

And yet, Ehler could not say whether she was leaning toward supporting Pence in the caucuses.

KSL 5 TV Live

AP

U.S. Secret Service agents converge to cover Republican presidential candidate former President Don...

Julie Carr Smyth, Jill Colvin, Colleen Long, Michael Balsmo, Eric Tucker and Michelle L. Price, The Associated Press

FBI says it has not determined a motive for assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) — On the heels of an attempt to kill him, former President Donald Trump called Sunday for unity and resilience as shocked leaders across the political divide recoiled from the shooting that left him wounded but “fine.” A former fire chief attending the rally with family was killed, as was the gunman. Two other […]

2 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surround by U.S. Secret Service ...

Jill Colvin, The Associated Press

Amid chaos and gunfire, Trump raised his fist and projected a characteristic image of defiance

Donald Trump, his face smeared with blood, forced his right fist through a tangle of agents' arms. He raised it high into the air before pumping his fist. "Fight!" he mouthed to the crowd and cameras as he pumped his arm sharply three times.

5 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surround by U.S. Secret Service ...

Associated Press

‘I was shot’: Trump issues statement after being whisked off stage following an apparent assassination attempt

Donald Trump was whisked off the stage at a rally in Butler, Pennsylvania after apparent gunshots rang through the crowd.

1 day ago

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, left, greets actor Matthew McConaughey at the 2024 summer meeting of the Nat...

Hannah Schoenbaum and Mead Gruver, Associated Press

Actor Matthew McConaughey tells governors he is still mulling future run for political office

Actor Matthew McConaughey continued to tease he might run for political office to a room full of governors Friday, joshing about drinking his brand of tequila with at least one of them the night before and taking advice from another to be himself if he ever does run.

2 days ago

FILE - A Paqui One Chip Challenge chip is displayed in Boston, Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. A lawsuit was...

Michael Casey, Associated Press

Lawsuit filed in case of teen who died after eating spicy chip

A lawsuit was filed Thursday against Hershey, Walgreens and several others in the case of a Massachusetts teen who died after he participated in a spicy tortilla chip challenge that was widely promoted on social media.

2 days ago

Actor Alec Baldwin reacts during his trial for involuntary manslaughter for the 2021 fatal shooting...

Morgan Lee and Andrew Dalton, Associated Press

Alec Baldwin manslaughter case dismissed, actor weeps in court

A New Mexico judge on Friday brought a sudden and stunning end to the involuntary manslaughter case against Alec Baldwin, dismissing it in the middle of the actor's trial and saying it cannot be filed again.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

young male technician is repairing a printer at office...

Les Olson

Unraveling the dilemma between leasing and buying office technology

Carefully weigh these pros and cons to make an informed decision that best suits your business growth and day-to-day operation. 

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse....

Lighting Design

A room-by-room lighting guide for your home

Bookmark this room-by-room lighting guide whenever you decide to upgrade your lighting or style a new home.

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Pence opens presidential bid with denunciation of Trump over Jan. 6 insurrection and abortion