Former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday teased what a 2024 campaign would look like, telling folksy family stories and stating his support for funding the Ukraine war and further chipping away at abortion rights – as just 7 percent of GOP voters say he’s their first choice.
Pence headlined a trio of events in Iowa – the state that holds the first Republican presidential caucus – and while he hasn’t announced an official bid, which would pit him against his ex-ticket-mate, former President Donald Trump – all signs pointed to that that was the plan.
‘Everything good starts in Iowa!’ Pence exclaimed as he took the stage Wednesday evening at the Johnson County Republican Reagan Dinner in Coralville, located just outside of Iowa City.
It was his third event of the day, after having a breakfast with a Republican group outside of Des Moines and appearing at a luncheon at the Cedar Rapids Country Club.
At the Reagan-themed dinner, Pence acknowledged that this was the start of ‘a great Republican victory and a great American comeback in 2024.’
‘It has never been more important for Iowa to choose the right leadership of the Republican Party to lead us out of the failed policies of the Biden-Harris administration,’ he said.
Former Vice President Mike Pence works the room Wednesday evening at the Johnson County Republicans Reagan Dinner, his third event in Iowa as he explores a 2024 presidential bid
Pence greets a guest at the Johnson County Republicans Reagan Dinner in Coralville, Iowa, which is just outside of Iowa City, as he explores the presidential waters
‘Everything good starts in Iowa!’ Pence exclaimed as he took the stage Wednesday evening at the Johnson County Republican Reagan Dinner in Coralville
Pence addressed around 100 guests in Coralville, Iowa Wednesday night, his final stop on his latest tour of the Hawkeye State
Earlier in the day, Pence acknowledged that his relationship with Trump had gone downhill.
They famously split when Pence refused to overturn the 2020 election in his role of overseeing the joint session of Congress when Electoral College votes are counted.
‘It obviously – it did not end well,’ he remarked. ‘But all those four years the president and I had a good working relationship. Oftentimes different temperament to things, but we both understood each other, we were both working the same agenda.’
And he touted a number of the administration’s accomplishments throughout the day.
‘I couldn’t be more proud than to be a small part of the administration that appointed three of the justices that sent Roe v. Wade to the ashheap of history and gave the American people a new beginning for life,’ he said to his dinnertime crowd, which was around 100 people.
‘We accomplished so much in those three years before the pandemic struck,’ he added.
Pence participates in a question and answer session at the Cedar Rapids Country Club for a lunchtime event in Iowa Wednesday
About 70 people came to see Pence speak at the Cedar Rapids Country Club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Wednesday
Pence also told the groups about post-White House life.
‘One of the great things about no longer being vice president is you get to drive your own car,’ he remarked – being sure to tell the crowd he had purchased a John Deere riding mower after moving back home to Indiana.
John Deere’s headquarters is just across the Mississippi River from Davenport, Iowa, and so there’s a sense of pride about it in the Hawkeye State.
He also remarked that he’s now a grandpa to three grand-daughters.
‘Karen and I finally figured out that the reason we had kids – was to have grandkids,’ he said to laughs.
He recalled how his daughter-in-law told him, ‘you’re going to be “Bop,”‘ – a nickname for grandpa that has since stuck.
Wife Karen is going by ‘Kiki’ by the grandkids – and even has a license plate with the name written on it.
‘Which we’ll probably transfer if we have different transportation in the years ahead,’ Pence said – presumably a hint that he’d like to see those license plates adorn the presidential Beast.
At breakfast and lunch, Pence took questions from the audience that dealt ith bread-and-butter issues like inflation and Social Security, the current hyper-partisan state of the United States and the war in Ukraine.
Penece expressed the view of most Congressional Republicans – who want to fund the Ukraine war in a show of force against Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
‘The United States of America must continue to give the Ukrainian military what they need to repel the Russian invasion,’ Pence stated.
‘Now, I think some of the waning support that we see for that basic principle, which is a time-honored American principle, is a reflection of the lack of confidence in President Biden’s leadership and I understand that,’ he added.
Some of the MAGA-aligned figures in Congress, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, have insisted that the U.S. stop pouring billions into the conflict.
Trump has boasted that if he was in office he’d have the war figured out in ’24 hours.’
During his Iowa tour Wednesday, Pence also twice took Q&A from the media – a departure from his time serving as vice president, when he usually let Trump talk for the White House.
At the first stop, he told a small group of journalists he’s yet to make a decision on whether to testify in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into January 6.
He was asked about Tuesday’s ruling from Federal Judge James E. Boasberg that said he had to testify in the probe.
He’s able to appeal the ruling.
‘I have nothing to hide,’ Pence told reporters, answering questions at his first stop in Urbandale, near Des Moines. ‘I’ve written and spoken extensively about that day.’
‘We’ll evaluate the best way forward and make our intentions known in the days to come,’ the former vice president added.
At his second stop of the day, a luncheon at the Cedar Rapids Country Club, Pence was asked by reporters if he had been in touch with Trump as he decides what to do.
‘I’ll be speaking with my counsel about the best way forward and I’ll be just speaking with my counsel,’ Pence said.
Former Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that he’s yet to make a decision on whether to testify in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into January 6
‘I have nothing to hide,’ Pence told reporters , answering questions at his first stop in Urbandale, near Des Moines. ‘I’ve written and spoken extensively about that day’
He expressed that he was happy with the ruling because Boasberg allowed Pence some protections as he was serving as president of the Senate while presiding over the joint session of Congress to certify the 2020 election on January 6.
‘I can’t speak very much about it and matters that are before the grand jury today, but I can tell you that I’m very pleased that the federal judge agreed with our position that the Constitution’s Speech and Debate clause does extend protections to the vice president when I’m serving as president of the Senate,’ Pence told reporters in Cedar Rapids.
‘But how the court sorted that out and the extent of those protections, we’ll be focused on that this week as we decide the next steps,’ he added.
Pence’s hand-wringing comes after he went after Trump over the ex-president’s role in the January 6 Capitol attack earlier this month at D.C.’s elite Gridiron dinner.
‘President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election, and his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable,’ Pence said.
One reporter pointed to that quote and asked why, then, shouldn’t Pence divulge everything he knows.
‘If you read my book, if you listen to the speeches and interviews that I’ve done over the last two years, you’ll know that I think the American people deserve the whole story,’ Pence said. ‘And I’ve been sharing that truth with the American people and I’ll continue to.’
But Pence argued that ‘just as it was on January 6’ there were ‘important Constitutional issues’ at stake.
‘But I agree with you, the American people deserve to know the story. We’ve been telling that story and I think as time goes on – people know we have nothing to hide, I’m proud of what I did on that day, I believe we did right by the Constitution and in service to the nation,’ he added.
Speaking to the luncheon crowd in Cedar Rapids, Pence also reiterated the point that he didn’t have the power to overturn what the states had sent him to certify, pointing out to the GOP crowd that it’s the Democrats who have, wrongly, tried to ‘nationalize’ elections.
While Pence has criticized Trump’s role in January 6, he’s been critical of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s probe into the Stormy Daniels hush-money scheme.
On Wednesday, Politico reported that the grand jury associated with the probe was going on a month-long, previously-scheduled hiatus, which will keep the threat of an indictment hovering over former President Donald Trump’s head deeper into the presidential campaign cycle.
Pence had told ABC’s Jonathan Karl that Bragg’s probe was ‘politically charged’ and ‘not what the American people want to see.’
He told DailyMail.com in Cedar Rapids that he hadn’t heard about the delay.
‘And obviously I don’t know anything about the merits of that case, but I expressed concern about what appeared to be a political prosecution taking place in New York and I continue to hope that the Manhattan DA will think better about it,’ he said.
‘The reality is that millions of Americans believe that we have a two-tiered system of justice in this country. One that applies to Democrats and one that applies to Republicans,’ the former vice president added. ‘And I think that equal justice before the law that every American deserves and my hope is that’ll be reflected in decisions that are made going forward.
While Pence’s a.m. event was at capacity, the former vice president’s crowds numbered in the dozens and not the thousands – and while one potential Iowa caucusgoer told DailyMail.com that she likes Pence for his temperament and experience, she wasn’t sure he could make it through a GOP primary.
Especially with the latest Morning Consult poll showing Trump at 52 percent to Pence’s 7 percent.
Focusing on Iowa, specifically, does make sense for Pence – as the winner of the first-in-the-nation GOP caucus tends to go to a traditional conservative.
But in recent cycles, that candidate did not go on to win the Republican nomination.
In 2016, it went to Sen. Ted Cruz. In 2012, it was Sen. Rick Santorum and in 2008 it was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.