MANCHESTER — Former Vice President Mike Pence would not rule out a run for president in 2024, but he stressed Wednesday that his immediate priorities are preventing the Democratic Congress from passing the social spending bill at the core of President Joe Biden’s agenda and working to put Republicans back in charge on Capitol Hill.
“Let’s stop this Build Back Better bill,” Pence said during a speech in Manchester. “And a year from now, let’s win back the Congress, let’s win back the Senate and state houses across America, and in 2024 let’s build back the country.”
Pence acknowledged the presidential speculation that naturally follows a visit to New Hampshire but said he will not make any decisions about his candidacy yet.
“After 2022, we will take a look around and see where we are called,” he said during an earlier interview on the New Hampshire Today radio program with Chris Ryan.
“The people who know me well know I am not a long-term planner. It’s worked out pretty well right now,” said the former Indiana governor and congressman.
Pence glossed over the deadly Jan. 6 riot during his speech in Manchester, mentioning it only as “a tragic day in the nation’s capital,” one calamity on a list that also included the pandemic, social unrest and “a new administration intent on transforming our nation into a European-style welfare state.”
During his radio interview earlier Wednesday, Pence said that though his role in certifying the election was ceremonial, he had a duty to do.
“The Bible says you keep your oath even when it hurts,” Pence said during the New Hampshire Today interview.
While they left office “amiably,” Pence repeated his view that Trump and he “may never see eye to eye” on his decision to confirm Biden’s victory.
“I knew there were irregularities in the election. There were states that changed their rules without going to their legislatures,” Pence said.
He minimized the riot but said, “Thanks to law enforcement, we quelled the violence that day.”
Pence returned to New Hampshire on Wednesday to raise money for state Senate Republicans. He was the keynote speaker at an event organized by Heritage Action, an arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation.
During his Heritage Action speech in a small space in the lower level of the Waumbec Mill in Manchester, Pence touched on foreign policy, Senate procedure and trade.
He said he believed an arms sale to Ukraine would be a more effective approach to containing Russia than the economic sanctions Biden has threatened.
He praised the filibuster as an essential protection for the minority party in the Senate but allowed that the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed through the same filibuster-proof reconciliation process Democrats in the Senate are now using for the Build Back Better bill.
But he spent much of the speech slamming Build Back Better, which he predicted would exacerbate inflation. He also criticized the proposal to reinstate the state and local tax deduction that the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act canceled.
This was Pence’s second visit to the first-in-the-nation primary state since leaving office. He spoke to a Hillsborough County Republican committee dinner in Manchester in June.
In addition to the Heritage Action event in Manchester and the state Senate Republican fundraiser, Pence was scheduled to speak to the state’s homebuilders at Charmingfare Farm in Candia and at a Christmas party for members of the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women.
“Some people think we are a little bit different. I am a small town guy from the Midwest and he is a big city guy,” Pence said of Trump and himself.
Asked if he had any regrets about the Trump-Pence years, Pence answered, “With very few exceptions, I couldn’t be more proud the way we delivered for the American people.”
During an interview with Jack Heath on “Good Morning N.H.,” Pence was asked about his concern that Trump’s continued emphasis on the 2020 election result could hurt efforts to win the midterms.
“Elections are always about the future,” Pence said, adding Trump is playing a major role in the effort to elect Republicans across the country.
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