Former Vice President Mike Pence, positioning himself for a possible return to elected office, told an audience in South Carolina that he will spend the coming months “pushing back on the liberal agenda.”
“We’ve got to guard our values … by offering a positive agenda to the American people, grounded in our highest ideals,” Pence told an audience of several hundred on Thursday at a Columbia dinner sponsored by a conservative Christian nonprofit. “Now, over the coming months, I’ll have more to say about all of that.”
Pence, whose relationship with President Donald Trump frayed as Trump pressured Pence to block certification of the presidential election results, praised Trump’s tenure as “four years of promises made, promises kept.”
The choice of South Carolina for Pence’s first public address since the end of the Trump administration has definite political overtones. The state holds the first presidential primaries in the South, and candidates of both major parties typically spend more than a year in South Carolina ahead of those elections.
Thursday’s event, hosted by Palmetto Family Council, gave Pence a chance to address issues important to conservatives, such as abortion.
Palmetto Family — which lobbies for biblical values like traditional marriage — most recently helped pass a ban on most South Carolina abortions, a law now being challenged by Planned Parenthood in federal court.
“We will stand with the right of every American, of every faith, to live, to work, to speak and to worship according to the dictates of their conscience,” Pence said.
Pence, who since leaving office has been doing work with the Heritage Foundation and Young America’s Foundation, has not indicated if he plans a future run.
As vice president, he made numerous trips to South Carolina, meeting several times with Gov. Henry McMaster for coronavirus forums and campaigning in the state for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace.
But the question of whether Pence’s former boss will run again still looms large for the possible Republican field.
Trump has not explicitly stated his plans but has teased a possible bid, saying Thursday on Fox Business that he’s “100 percent” thinking about running in 2024 and would possibly consider Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as his running mate.
Earlier this month, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, another possible GOP contender, said when asked about 2024 that she would stand down if Trump opted to run again.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has launched an aggressive schedule, visiting states that will play a pivotal role in the 2024 primaries and signing a contract with Fox News.
DeSantis has been courting donors, including with a prominent speaking slot before the former president at a GOP fundraising dinner at Mar-a-Lago, the Florida resort where Trump now lives.
On Thursday, Pence highlighted accomplishments of the Trump administration, including three successful confirmations of U.S. Supreme Court justices, withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
He also recalled fondly their 2016 campaign, saying that Trump told him at the close of that year’s GOP convention in Cleveland that the two of them would campaign hard, “and then he looked over at me, and he hit me in the shoulder, and he said, ‘And then it’s going to be great.'”
“And I’ve got to tell you, it was,” Pence went on. “It was four years of consequences, four years of results, and four years of promises made, promises kept.”
Pence pledged to reveal more of his ideas soon, promising that he would be challenging the Biden administration’s “avalanche of liberal policies” as he ramps up speaking engagements around the country.
“We have the winning agenda,” Pence said. “And now it’s incumbent upon us to take that winning agenda to the American people.”
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