Former Vice President Mike Pence hit another presidential early voting state Thursday evening, fueling 2024 campaign speculation by headlining the Hillsborough County Republican Committee’s annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner in Manchester, New Hampshire.
If he is going to run for president, Thursday night’s speech highlighted the disagreement with his former boss — also a possible challenger for the GOP nomination — over how he views the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
Five people were killed as a result of the rioting, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, while another police officer involved in the fighting died by suicide in the wake of the attack. Dozens of other law enforcement personnel suffered injuries and discussed the brutal hand-to-hand combat with rioters.
But he did make a notable admission about how he and Trump view that day.
“President Trump and I’ve spoken many times since we left office,” Pence told the crowd in Manchester. “And I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye to eye on that day. But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years.”
Pence was in the Capitol when supporters of Trump pushed through barriers and attacked police officers in a bid to stop the counting of the electoral votes that confirmed Joe Biden as president. As Pence oversaw the count, Trump called for his No. 2 to overturn the results, despite no mechanism to do so. The calls from Trump and his supporters led to angry chants from protesters to “Hang Mike Pence” as he rejected any notion of overturning the election results.
Yet, Pence went on to say Thursday, “I will not allow Democrats or their allies in the media to use one tragic day to discredit the aspirations of millions of Americans.”
The former vice president spent much of the speech touting what he viewed as the Trump administration’s accomplishments, and blasting the Biden administration’s first few months in office, including their “explosion of runaway spending.”
Before he laid into the current White House, he joked, “The governor said he didn’t come here to bash the current administration. Well, I did. So buckle up.”
While Pence avoided promoting conspiracies about the election or any mention of the so-called audits happening in Arizona and Georgia, he did talk about “election integrity” and endorsed efforts in state legislatures nationwide to enact GOP-led voting legislation. Democrats have referred to this legislation, pushed with differing success in states like Georgia and Texas, as voter suppression tactics.
“It will be our party that makes it clear that election integrity is a national imperative, but a state responsibility,” Pence said. “The truth is, after an election that saw several states around the country literally set aside laws enacted by their legislatures, now is the time for states to ensure that one-person, one-vote principle that is at the center of our system is protected — guaranteed.”
Blasting H.R. 1, the Democrat-led ethics and voting rights package, Pence said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats in Washington “want to literally codify many of the very practices that create the greatest opportunity for fraud.” Democrats say the law would make voting more accessible.
He also said Thursday that Republicans will “never let” Pelosi “take the first in the nation primary from New Hampshire.”
Pence’s visit to New Hampshire was just his latest to a state with an early primary. New Hampshire traditionally holds the first primary in the nation. In late April, Pence gave his first speech since leaving office at an event in Columbia, South Carolina, another early voting primary state.
Pence also blasted Biden’s response to the recent fighting that broke out between Israel and Hamas in his New Hampshire visit.
“After our administration stood strong with Israel every day for four years. President Biden restored hundreds of millions of dollars to the Palestinian Authority, announced plans to begin negotiations again with Iran, and even remained silent as Hamas terrorists were firing thousands of rockets at Israeli citizens. Incredible,” Pence said. “President Biden replaced strength with weakness, moral clarity with confusion, and loyalty with betrayal.”
Biden, however, did repeatedly condemn Hamas firing rockets into Israel and on multiple occasions said the country had a right to defend itself.
ABC News’ Mark Osborne contributed to this report.