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Pence takes several veiled swipes at Trump while warning against ‘siren song of unprincipled populism’

Former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday warned conservatives against veering too far toward “unprincipled populism,” delivering a speech with several veiled swipes at former President Trump’s fixation on the 2020 election and grip on the party.

“Conservatism is bigger than any one moment, any one election, any one person. It’s about ideas,” Pence said in remarks at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Pence, who is seen as laying the groundwork for a potential 2024 presidential bid, laid out the fork in the road facing the conservative movement. 

He argued that some in the Republican Party prefer a “simple conservative agenda” that focuses on limited government and strong national defense, while others believe the movement “should be swept along by a new and energetic sense of populism.”

Pence argued the Trump administration was able to blend both of those ideas, passing tax cuts and bolstering military spending while focusing on border security and other issues that animated Trump’s base.

But Pence warned against abandoning conservative values in favor of following unprincipled leaders.

“Our movement cannot forsake the foundational commitment that we have to security, to limited government, to liberty and to life,” Pence said. “But nor can we allow our movement to be led astray by the siren song of unprincipled populism that’s unmoored from our oldest traditions and most cherished values. 

“Let me say: This movement and the party that it animates must remain the movement of a strong national defense, limited government and traditional moral values and life,” he added.

Pence used his speech at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank founded in the 1970s that was particularly influential during the Reagan administration, to highlight key aspects of his proposed “Freedom Agenda,” which includes advocating for abortion bans, protecting gun rights and pushing for school choice, among other issues.

“We must do more than simply criticize and complain,” Pence said. “We must unite around a bold and optimistic agenda. And that was how the freedom agenda was born.”

Pence has been making the rounds in recent weeks to boost Republican candidates ahead of next month’s midterm elections. He has campaigned in New Hampshire, with Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.), who voted to impeach Trump in 2021, and in Arizona with Senate candidate Blake Masters.

The former vice president, who spent four years as a staunchly loyal sidekick to Trump, has been willing to break with the former president on certain issues, most notably his claims that the 2020 election was stolen. And Pence endorsed opposing candidates from Trump in GOP primaries, with success in Georgia and defeats in Arizona and Wisconsin.

Pence has made frequent trips to early primary states like South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa, stoking speculation that he may run for president in 2024.

Tags 2024 presidential race conservatives Donald Trump Mike Pence Mike Pence Republican Party Right-wing populism

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