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Why Mike Pence’s speech was really important, and what it says about 2024

The Honorable Mike Pence

Former Vice President Mike Pence made headlines during his stop in New Hampshire.

The former vice president well received speech was interrupted by numerous standing ovations by the sold out crowd of conservative activists and leaders at the Hillsborough County GOP’s Lincoln-Reagan Day dinner.

His address included plenty of body slams of President Biden’s “failed leadership,” and he dove head first into the nation’s culture wars by targeting critical race theory and stressing that “America is not a racist nation,” as well as firing away at the congressional Democrats push to “nationalize our elections” while praising GOP controlled states that have passed into law tightened voting access rules.

By headlining a top county fundraising dinner in the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House, Pence also sparked more speculation about a likely 2024 run for the Republican presidential nomination.

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the annual Hillsborough County NH GOP Lincoln-Reagan Dinner, Thursday, June 3, 2021, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the annual Hillsborough County NH GOP Lincoln-Reagan Dinner, Thursday, June 3, 2021, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

But the most newsworthy moment of his address came as he gave his most extensive comments to date about the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Pence has been in a precarious position among some in the GOP base since the storming of the Capitol by right wing extremists aiming to disrupt congressional certification of Biden’s election victory over then-President Trump.

Pence was at the Capitol at the time it was attacked, overseeing the joint session of Congress. By following his Constitution duties instead of following Trump’s wishes and overturn the results, Pence has endured the wrath of the former president and some of Trump’s most devout loyalists and supporters.

In his Thursday night speech Pence – who along with members of Congress was forced to move to secure rooms while the Capitol was stormed – called the attack a “dark” and “tragic” day in American history. But he emphasized “that same day we reconvened the Congress and did our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States.”

Pence, Trump’s loyal right hand man the past four years, highlighted that he and Trump have spoken “many times” since the end of their administration in January. But pointing to what many see as his now frayed relationship with the former president, he acknowledged that “I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye to eye about that day.”

But he quickly added that “I will always be proud what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years,” which brought the sold out audience of more than 360 Granite State conservative leaders and activists to their feet in applause. Throughout his address Pence repeatedly touted the Trump-Pence administration’s successes.

And alluding to the unsuccessful push by congressional Democrats to pass legislation setting up a Jan. 6 commission to investigation the insurrection – which was thwarted by GOP leadership in the U.S. Senate – Pence said “I will not allow the Democrats and their allies in the media to use one tragic day to discredit the aspirations of millions of Americans.”

Longtime GOP strategist David Carney, who lives in New Hampshire and attended the dinner, told Fox News that “I thought it was smart on Pence’s part” to spotlight his differences with Trump over the insurrection while equally highlighted the Trump-Pence administration achievements.

“Everyone I talked to in the crowd after the fact thought it was a great way to do it,” added Carney, who’s worked on Republican presidential campaigns for more than three decades.

Former New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O’Brien, who remains an influential leader among Granite State conservatives, emphasized that “it was helpful that Mike Pence reminded us in New Hampshire of his loyalty and those shared concerns when explaining what he viewed, correctly, as his proper role on January 6 during the counting of the electoral votes in Congress. I am sure many New Hampshire Republicans and many Republicans across the country agree with him on this issue.”

Also in the room was New Hampshire state Rep. Fred Doucette, who briefly met with Pence on Thursday night.

Doucette, a co-chair of Trump’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns in New Hampshire and a self-described “hard core” supporter of the former president, told Fox News “we’re not all going to agree on” the Capitol insurrection. “If we dwell on a specific date ,we’re stagnating progress.”

But he praised Pence, saying “he refreshed people’s memories and went through the specifics of the successes of the Trump-Pence administration.”

Doucette called Trump “the leader of the Republican Party, period.” But said the Pence is “one of the big leaders of the Republican Party and we need to coalesce around that because there was some peripheral static about having the vice president speak at the Hillsborough County Lincoln-Reagan dinner, and we need to get away from that. Nobody is a bigger supporter of President Trump than this guy.”

Trump-Pence in 2024? Not so fast

Since the end of his administration ,Trump has continuously flirted with making presidential run in 2024 to try and return to the White House.

And he did it again Saturday night in an exclusive interview with Fox News’ Mark Meredith before giving the keynote address at the North Carolina GOP’s annual convention.

“I’ll make a decision in the not too distant future, maybe sooner than people think. And I think they’re going to be very happy,” Trump declared.

But when asked about Pence as a running mate, Trump alluded to Jan. 6, saying “I was disappointed on one account but that was a choice that Mike made, and I want people to make their own decisions and he did.”

Then looking to 2024, Trump said “Mike and I have a good relationship, we continue to have a good but it’s too early to be discussing running mates certainly.”

Trump at CPAC, the sequel

Trump will address Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) confab in Dallas in July, Fox News was first to report last week. The former president will speak on Sunday July 11, the final day of the three-day gathering.

The former president gave his first address after leaving the White House at CPAC’s annual conference, which took place this year in late February in Orlando.

Cotton to New Hampshire

Sen. Tom Cotton is headed to New Hampshire next month, sparking more speculation that he’s laying the groundwork for a possible 2024 GOP presidential run.

Cotton, who faced nominal opposition last year as he ran for reelection, spent much of his time campaigning for Trump’s 2020 reelection as well as for down-ballot Republicans. His travels brought him both to New Hampshire and Iowa, the state that kicks off the presidential nominating calendar.

This year Cotton has already headlined two virtual events for New Hampshire’s GOP. And the senator will travel to Iowa later this month – to headline an Iowa GOP dinner and fundraiser on June 29 in Sioux Center, a small city in the reliably red northwest part of the Hawkeye State

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