DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) — Former Vice President Mike Pence formally announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president at an event in Iowa on Wednesday.
Pence made his announcement at the Future Farmers of America Enrichment Center on the campus of the Des Moines Area Community College. Following that event, Pence was scheduled to head on the road to a number of other events prior to a town hall on CNN moderated by Dana Bash.
After ticking off his political and personal credentials in his announcement speech, Pence told the crowd why he decided to enter the race.
"This country is in a lot of trouble," he said. "This country has been so good to my family; I have been honored to serve it. It would be easy to remain on the sidelines. But that’s not how I was raised. I have longed believed, to who much is given much will be required.
"That is why today before God and my family I am announcing I am running for president of the United States."
Pence said three things characterize him as a politician: “I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican – in that order.”
The former vice president made a number of allusions to former President Donald Trump on Wednesday and distinguished between the positive things he believes that administration achieved and why he has departed from Trump by running against him now.
“Jan. 6 was a tragic day in the life of our nation," he said. "But thanks to the courage of law enforcement, the violence was quelled, we reconvened the Congress. The very same day, President Trump's reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol.
“But the American people deserve to know on that fateful day, President Trump also demanded I choose between him and our Constitution. Now voters will be faced with the same choice. I chose the Constitution and I always will.”
While he understands the disappointment many still feel about the 2020 election, he said he had no right to overturn the election, "and [Vice President] Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn our election when we beat them in 2024."
Pence spoke to a friendly audience of Iowa Republicans, many of whom where invited to Wednesday's event, but it's not clear how many of them will ultimately support him.
Chad Tentinger, 46, of West Des Moines, said in an interview that he has not settled on a candidate but wanted to see Pence's announcement.
“I wanted to be here and to see him today firsthand. He is a viable candidate," Tentinger said. He said the GOP is very fortunate to have a field of "great, strong candidates." Asked for his top three, he named Tim Scott, Ron DeSantis and Pence.
Tentinger said he’s looking for a candidate who will “look to the future, an upbeat optimist” who will talk about the future, about about the “shining city on a hill,” as Ronald Reagan once described America.
Don Vaske, 54, of West Des Moines, said he’s looking for a candidate who is “pro-business and a tax structure that supports it.”
Jada Williams, 25, a college sophomore who drove up from Arkansas for Wednesday’s announcement because she’s planning to canvass for Pence in Iowa and other primary states, said she believes the former vice president has "a really good vision” for the country. That includes bringing the economy under control and supporting a living wage.
The former Indiana governor and six-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives has made several trips to Iowa, most recently on Saturday when he attended Iowa Senator Joni Ernst’s annual Roast and Ride fundraiser, riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle across town to the event at the Iowa State Fairgrounds with about 200 other riders – though Pence was the only one of the eight announced or would-be Republican hopefuls to do so.
With Pence now officially in the race, the field of announced candidates for the Republican nomination continues to grow, including former President Donald Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, former South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
Among his other visits to Iowa, Pence had a sit-down with the Des Moines Register’s editorial board for about an hour on May 24. He talked generally about his governing philosophy, drawing on his experiences growing up in a small town in rural Indiana and in his political career in Congress, the governor’s office and the Trump administration.
When asked about the solvency of Social Security and Medicare programs, Pence departed from other candidates – including Trump – who have taken those issues off the table.
"I think that both Joe Biden and my former running mate have made it clear that they won’t even discuss Social Security or Medicare reform, and I just think that’s unacceptable," Pence told the board. "I think that policy is insolvency."
While dodging efforts to pin him down on specifics, Pence spoke approvingly of how the lifespan of Social Security was extended during the Reagan administration and he said raising the retirement age should be on the table, but only if it is phased in over several years to protect workers approaching retirement age. A part of the solution, he said, would be allowing Americans to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in private investment accounts, an idea floated by former President George W. Bush that went nowhere.
Pence was born in Columbus, Indiana, in 1959. He holds an undergraduate degree from Hanover College and a law degree from Indiana University School of Law.
After law school Pence worked in private practice, led the Indiana Policy Review Foundation and hosted a syndicated talk radio show.
He first entered politics as a precinct committeeman for the Marion County Republican Party. He made two unsuccessful runs for Congress against incumbent Democratic Representative Philip Sharp in 1988 and 1990. In 2000, he ran for the U.S. House again, this time winning the race for Indiana's 2nd Congressional District.
While in Congress, Pence was named the chairman of the Republican Study Committee in 2005. He became chairman of the House Republican Conference in 2011.Follow @@roxalaird16
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