Pence steps up midterm stumping by touting abortion stance, with eye to 2024


FLORENCE, SC — After years as a quiet sidekick to Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence is now popping up everywhere — or at least in friendly forums.

On Wednesday morning, he traveled to the United States Capitol for a meeting with House conservatives, some of whom have urged him to run for president in 2024. In the evening, he spoke at a at a church service in Florence, South Carolina, where he drew a standing ovation after a speech praising the end of abortion rights and discussing the aftermath.

“The tide has turned in this country,” Pence told about 1,500 worshipers at the Florence Baptist Temple. “Many more are with us than with them. Never doubt it. Life wins in America.

Next Friday, he and Trump will hold dueling rallies in Arizona for candidates vying for the Republican primary. And next week, they will each deliver a speech in the nation’s capital, one day apart.

Wherever he goes, Pence urges support for conservative candidates running in midterm elections, often highlighting their anti-abortion credentials. But he’s also considering his own presidential campaign, and his shadow campaign is well underway, fueled by a long conservative record that often diverges from Trump’s.

Pence made the slightest mention of Trump during his church appearance here: a passing reference to the “Trump-Pence” administration’s anti-abortion policies.

Now that Roe v. Wade is overruled, he said, states have great influence over the legality of abortion. He called for a nationwide ban on the practice – something that requires “movement in every state in the country.”

“It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that we have leaders in our state houses who reflect a commitment to life,” he said. “It’s time to end this injustice in every US state.”

At the same time, he advocated making adoption less expensive and a more feasible option for families.

After spending so much time in Trump’s shadow, Pence has introduced himself to an audience that may not have a sense of the man. He’s been getting more publicity lately thanks to the House Jan. 6 committee, which cast him as a hero for fending off Trump’s request not to certify Joe Biden’s victory.

Pence said nothing about Jan. 6 in his Wednesday night speech, nor did he respond to an NBC News reporter’s question afterward as he shook hands with the audience in outgoing.

But he made an impression on the crowd, detailing how his life has changed since giving up the perks that come with the vice presidency for a more pedestrian existence in his home state of Indiana. In a look at the high gas prices that have plagued Biden, he said, “The good part about not being vice president anymore is I can drive my own car. The downside is that I have to pay for my own gas.

Although he was vice president and governor of Indiana, he said, he still had to wait almost half an hour for a table at an Olive Garden restaurant on a Saturday night. “It’s America, dad,” he said, his daughter, Charlotte, texting him when he told her about it.

If Pence is to have a chance of defeating Trump, he must rally evangelical voters who remain grateful to the former president for appointing a trio of Supreme Court justices who all voted to unseat Roe. Some of the worshipers interviewed said they would give Pence serious consideration.

Holding a Bible as he exits church, Franklin Stewart, 80, said he would prefer Pence to Trump if the two ran for the GOP nomination in 2024,” he said.


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