MANCHESTER, NH — Mike Pence offered some of his strongest criticism of Donald Trump — and those he calls Trump “imitators” in the Republican primaries — in a battle speech Wednesday. between conservatism and populism within the Republican Party.
Pence repeatedly denounced the former president’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021, when he pressured then-vice president Pence to overturn the 2020 election results and a violent mob protested. attacked the US Capitol. But Pence is now breaking with Trump, his former running mate, for broader philosophical and political reasons.
Pence spent four years in the Trump administration supporting Trump policies, but now says Trump no longer supports conservative policies and sounds “like an echo of the progressives” the party wants to replace.
“The growing faction would replace our faith in limited government and traditional values with an agenda of personal grievance and performative outrage,” Pence said of his party’s populists in his speech at St. Anselm College.
In his first political speech since appearing on the stage at the Republican presidential primary debate, Pence drew a stark contrast to his main competitors, including Trump. Pence had limited his criticism of Trump largely to Jan. 6, as well as abortion and abortion rights reform.
But Pence still faces an uphill battle to establish himself in today’s Republican Party – as polls show Republican primary voters still trail Trump by a large margin.
“The truth is, the Republican Party didn’t start on a golden staircase in 2015,” Pence said in his speech, referring to Trump’s first campaign announcement.
He did not name Trump or any other candidate, but he made it clear who his criticism was directed at.
“The Governor of Florida still justifies the use of state power to punish a company that took a policy stance he disagreed with,” Pence said, referring to Ron DeSantis and his colleague. dispute with Disney.
“And one of the president’s populist proteges actually advocated a 59% estate tax in his book ‘Nation of Victims’ last year,” Pence said, referring to Vivek Ramaswamy – a recent target of his anger during the GOP debate in August and on the campaign trail.
Pence didn’t specifically mention the other candidates on Wednesday — but he did talk about the policies some of them are championing, like not wanting to reform welfare programs to deal with the national debt or wanting to leave state abortion laws. Pence, who has advocated for federal limits on abortion, and former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley disagreed on how to handle the issue during the latest debate.
“I truly believe that we are now, after Labor Day, engaged in an important debate about the future of the party that will affect the future of America,” Pence told NBC News on Tuesday. “And it’s really a debate about whether or not the Republican Party is going to continue to stick to the common-sense conservative agenda that has defined our movement for the past 50 years or whether we’re going to, we’re going to take into account.” the siren song of a populism unmoored to conservative principles.