Before Vice President Mike Pence could make his case for four more years of President Trump to a New Hampshire business crowd, he had to deny a report that some White House officials believed he was willing to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump for mental incapacity.
In Concord, where Pence filed paperwork to put Trump’s name on the New Hampshire primary ballot, he told reporters, “I never heard anything in my time as vice president about the 25th Amendment. And why would I?” The vice president was responding to a report in a book by “Anonymous” — a former Trump administration official, whose name is not yet public — that he supported Trump’s removal.
Also awkward: In Concord, Pence called the ongoing impeachment inquiry a “disgrace” — even as a Pence aide was testifying in Washington in the ongoing House impeachment inquiry. With his own role in the White House dealings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky under increasing scrutiny, Pence is following the Trump script. There was “no quid pro quo” mentioned during the phone call between Trump and Zelensky, he told reporters, and “the president did nothing wrong.”
And then it was onto Manchester, where he kept to his usual job description: fawning over Trump and covering up for him, when necessary. He griped about the Democrats’ “endless investigations” and “attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election.” But Pence’s presence in the Granite State was also seen by insiders as a sign of his own interest in a 2024 run. And through that prism, the case Pence made for Trump could be seen as an argument for himself, too.
“I think there’s only one way you can describe the last three years,” he told an audience of students and business people at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. “It’s been three years of action. It’s been three years of results. It’s been three years of promises made and kept, but we’re just getting started.”
He talked up the economy, stressing job creation and business deregulation under Trump. He reminded the audience of the scores of conservative judges appointed by the Trump administration, and other causes dear to conservative hearts, like Second Amendment rights and an anti-abortion agenda.
And in a preview of the Republican line of attack for 2020, he warned that the leading Democratic presidential candidates favor abolishing private health insurance; legalizing illegal immigration; weakening the national defense; and embracing “an economic system that has impoverished millions — socialism.” All the progress of the Trump years in office could be rolled back “in one bad day in November next year," said Pence.
This Manchester audience applauded politely during Pence’s speech. The response was warmer when he finished talking and did some moderate mingling with the crowd, as “Only in America” played in the background.
Pence was introduced by Jim Brett, president and CEO of the New England Council, which represents regional business leaders, and partners with the New Hampshire Institute of Politics to showcase candidates during presidential election years. In this introductory remarks, Brett mentioned that his father and Pence’s grandfather hailed from the same, small Irish village named Tubbercurry. “We are glad those men made the decision to come to America, the land of opportunity,” said Brett. In light of the Trump administration’s rabidly anti-immigration agenda, was there a gentle message there for Pence? Asked about it afterward, Brett smiled and said there was. Pence, however, didn’t seem to get it. He told the crowd he was touched by Brett’s remarks.