COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence, positioning himself for a possible return to elected office, told an audience in early-voting South Carolina that he will spend the coming months “pushing back on the liberal agenda” he says is wrong for the country.
“We’ve got to guard our values … by offering a positive agenda to the American people, grounded in our highest ideals,” Pence told an audience of several hundred on Thursday at a Columbia dinner sponsored by a conservative Christian nonprofit. “Now, over the coming months, I’ll have more to say about all of that.”
Pence, whose relationship with President Donald Trump frayed as Trump pressured Pence to block certification of the presidential election results, praised Trump’s tenure as “four years of promises made, promises, kept.”
The choice of South Carolina for Pence’s first public address since the end of the Trump administration has definite political overtones, helping him develop exposure for a potential 2024 presidential bid. The state holds the first presidential primaries in the South, and candidates of both major parties typically spend more than a year in South Carolina ahead of those votes, introducing themselves and trying to secure support.
Republican candidates use South Carolina as a proving ground to test their “pro-life” mettle. Thursday’s event, hosted by Palmetto Family Council, also gave Pence a backdrop for some of the issues for which he long advocated as an Indiana congressman-turned-governor, such as restrictions on abortion and support for the overturn of Roe v. Wade.
Palmetto Family — which lobbies for what it considers to be “biblical values,” such as heterosexual marriage — most recently helped push through a ban on most South Carolina abortions, a law now being challenged in federal court.
“We will stand with the right of every American, of every faith, to live, to work, to speak and to worship according to the dictates of their conscience,” Pence said.
Pence, who since leaving office has been doing work with the Heritage Foundation and Young America’s Foundation, has not indicated if he plans a future run. As vice president, he made numerous trips to South Carolina, meeting several times with Gov. Henry McMaster for coronavirus-related forums and campaigning in the state for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace.