Pence launched his presidential bid by denouncing Trump over the Jan. 6 uprising and abortion

ANGENEY, Iowa (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence Former President Donald Trump opened his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on Wednesday with a strong condemnation. 2021 Jan. 6 accused his two-time running mate of abandoning conservative principles and dereliction of duty.

On that fateful day, when Trump supporters besieged the US capital after the president falsely claimed that his vice presidential election could be overturned, Trump “demanded a choice between him and our Constitution. Now voters will face the same choice.

Pence is the first vice president in modern history to challenge a serving president. He delivered the bulk of his speech at a community college on the outskirts of Des Moines on Jan. 6, criticizing Democratic President Joe Biden and the direction he has taken the country. He falsely claimed that Pence had the power to keep him in office.

Trump’s reports of mass voting fraud have led to mobs of his supporters Some in the crowd chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” as Pence and his family scrambled for safety to storm the US Capitol.

“I believe that anyone who puts themselves above the Constitution should never be President of the United States, and anyone who asks someone else to put it above the Constitution should never be President of the United States again,” the former vice president said.

Pence has spent the past two and a half years struggling with the fallout from that day as he tries to chart a political future in a party filled with many who are deeply loyal to Trump and still believe Trump’s lies. The 2020 election was stolen and Pence could somehow overrule the results.

Pence has criticized Trump for working to create an identity for himself outside of the former president’s shadow., reflecting Trump’s continued popularity in the party, he has typically done it obliquely. But on Wednesday, as Pence made his pitch to voters for the first time as a declared candidate, he didn’t hold his tongue.

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

Pence, who supports a national ban on the practice, said, “After presiding over the most biased 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 considers it 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 blamed the strong rhetoric of some midterm candidates last November for their loss.

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

“We will restore the threshold of civility in public life,” he promised

Still, Pence hasn’t ruled out supporting Trump if the former president wins the GOP nomination.

“I will absolutely support the Republican nominee in 2024, especially if it’s me,” Pence said on Fox News Channel after his announcement.

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

“The question most GOP voters are asking themselves about Pence’s candidacy is ‘why?'” said Carolyn Leavitt, a spokeswoman for the pro-Trump super PAC.

With Pence entering the race, on his 64th birthday, the GOP field is largely set. Trump is leading in the early polls, followed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. These include Tim Scott and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

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Pence’s campaign will test the party’s appetite for a socially conservative, soft-spoken and deeply religious candidate who has criticized the populist wave sweeping his party under Trump.. Pence, in many ways, represents a return to a party from days gone by. Unlike Trump and DeSantis, he argues that cuts to Social Security and Medicare should be on the table, and blasted those who questioned why the U.S. should continue sending aid to Ukraine to counter Russian aggression..

Pence and his advisers see Iowa — the first ballot state on the GOP nominating calendar — as key to his path to the nomination.. Its caucuses include a majority of evangelical Christian voters, who they see as a natural constituency for Pence, who often speaks about his faith.

But Pence faces serious challenges. Despite being one of the better-known Republican candidates in a crowded field, he is viewed with skepticism by voters on the left and right. Trump critics see him as complicit in the former president’s most indefensible actions, while many Trump loyalists vilify him as a traitor, partly to blame for the president’s denial of a second term.

A CNN poll last month found that 45% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they would not support Pence under any circumstances. In Iowa, a March Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll has Pence with higher unfavorable ratings than any other candidate it asked, including Trump and DeSantis.

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

His Wednesday audience in an auditorium decorated with red, white and blue balloons included several Iowa Republican officials, including former Iowa Rep. Greg Ganske, whose time in Congress was brief with Pence.

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

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

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

But when asked at the leadoff caucus if Studerman was a lock for Pence, he said, “I’m not married to the idea, but I’m going to look and ask, and I’m going to follow this guy.”

It’s the same for Grimes resident Dave Bubeck, who hails Pence as “a super professional guy,” “politician” and “a man of high character” — capable of serving as president. “But I think there are other good candidates,” he said, adding, “I’ll wait and see how it pans out.”

Asked why he wasn’t sold on Benz, Bubek said, “Maybe he’s a little nicer. … I don’t know if he’s hard enough to do what we need right now. That would be my hesitation.

Pence’s decision to focus on Jan. 6 reflects his advisers’ strategy to face the Capitol attack head-on.

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 January 6 when he adopted the Constitution. If that’s where he feels different from our past presidents, that would be a big deal for him,” Ehler said.

Still, Ehler couldn’t say whether she was leaning toward supporting Pence in the caucus.

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