By MICHAEL R. BLOOD, AP Political Writer
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday accused Democrats of trying to rewrite the Constitution and urged Republicans to build the party’s future around a defense of the nation’s founding documents, a robust military, border security and free markets.
Republicans, he said, represent “the last line of defense” for the Constitution, which he described as under assault by Democrats who want to undercut the Second Amendment and redefine liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.
“We live in a time when the leaders in the Democratic Party routinely demean the American founding,” he said. “We must make it clear the Republican Party will always defend the principles at the heart of our republic.”
Pence’s comments at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library came at a time of reckoning for the GOP in the aftermath of the turbulent Trump presidency and 2020 election losses that saw Democrats take control of Congress and the White House.
His prescription for the party’s future: Using the template of the Trump administration, which he credited for energizing the conservative movement and challenging the Washington establishment.
His appearance in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 800 at the hilltop library was his latest in recent months as Pence considers a potential 2024 White House run. He took a brief pause from the public stage after leaving Washington, but in late April kicked off a series of appearances in early-voting states in which he has sought to sharpen his conservative profile for voters more familiar with him standing in Trump’s shadow.
Earlier this month in New Hampshire, Pence defended the Trump administration record but also appeared to put some distance between himself and the former president, saying, “I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye to eye” on the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, when enraged Trump loyalists stormed the building, some chanting “Hang Mike Pence” after the then-vice president said he didn’t have the authority to block Joe Biden’s election victory.
He made no mention Thursday of any friction with Trump. He briefly referred to Jan. 6, saying he was proud that Congress was reconvened and stressed he did not have the authority to reject electoral votes from the states.
“There is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president,” he said.
His framework for the party’s future included an aggressive stance with China, which he called the greatest threat to American prosperity, and the Trump model on trade and border security.
He received some of his loudest applause when defending the work of police. “America is not a racist country,” he said at one point.
Throughout his remarks he used the Biden administration as a counterpoint, blaming Democrats for a “tidal wave of left-wing policies” that included immigration problems at the border.
Pence entered to a standing ovation, but there were mixed views about whether he would be a good choice on the presidential ticket in 2024.
Joseph Quiroz, 45, an accountant from Pasadena, said he would like to see Pence run and considered him his top choice at this juncture, largely because of his experience in Washington and as a former governor.
Quiroz, a Republican, said he voted for Trump in 2016 but believed “the best thing would be a new face.”
Bob Refer, 72, a Republican and a retired policeman from San Diego, said he liked Pence but “I think he’s too nice a guy. He’s not forceful enough.”
While Refer liked Trump and his readiness to take on a fight, he was dubious about another run for the billionaire businessman in 2024.
But he quickly added: “I’d like someone like him (Trump).”
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