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Pence tries out political themes in Cedar Rapids visit
The former vice president said he will talk with his lawyers about a federal ruling he must testify before Trump grand jury
CEDAR RAPIDS — It seemed like former Vice President Mike Pence was trying out a couple of possible campaign slogans Wednesday in Cedar Rapids: “We’ve got to have a government as good as its people” and “We’re going to get it all back.”
The messages seemed to resonate with about 60 people who gathered at the Cedar Rapids Country Club for a luncheon hosted by the Linn Eagles, a Republican fundraising group.
“I think he’d be a good candidate,” Jim Felker, 77, of Hiawatha, said of Pence’s potential run for president in 2024. “He’s a Christian. He’s a conservative. He’s a person of integrity and means what he says.”
The former Indiana governor hasn’t confirmed he’ll seek the White House, but he met Wednesday with Iowa donors and signed copies of his book, “So Help Me God” — key steps for someone mulling a presidential bid.
Pence also spoke with Republican groups in Urbandale and Coralville.
In Cedar Rapids, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate asked Pence whether there was anything the federal government could do to reinforce steps state legislatures — like Iowa’s — are taking to ensure parents can play an active role in what their kids do in school.
“Let me commend Gov. Kim Reynolds,” Pence said. “Thank you for expanding educational choice to every family in Iowa. Parents ought to be able to choose where their children go to school. It’s going to be transformational.”
Pence criticized school districts — calling out Linn-Mar Community School District — for policies that allow transgender students to use the restroom or locker room that corresponds with their gender identity and protects a student’s privacy by keeping their transgender status private at school if that is the student’s wish.
The Iowa Legislature passed a law this month requiring anyone visiting a public school to use the restroom or locker room that corresponds with their gender at birth.
Pence repeated a line Reynolds has used saying students have to get parental permission to take a Tylenol. “But you could get a gender transition plan without parents even being notified,” he said.
Pence wants to abolish the U.S. Department of Education to let state education departments handle all educational issues, he said. He also believes public safety and “basic infrastructure needs” should all be decided at the local level.
Unlike some Republicans who have called for reducing aid to Ukraine a year after Russia invaded the country, Pence said the U.S. must continue to support the Ukrainian military.
“Anybody who thinks (Russian President) Vladimir Putin will stop if he takes Ukraine has, what they say where I grew up, another think coming,” Pence said. “This is a moment where the only end here is American strength. We need to demand our allies do more and do more quickly. We need to lead a much more urgent effort to get this war over quickly.”
Pence’s visit to Iowa drew national media attention, including from Mark McKinnon, a political adviser who hosts the Showtime political show “The Circus.” McKinnon, wearing his trademark Stetson, was filmed as he asked Pence how important it is for the former vice president to tell a federal grand jury about what happened before the attack on the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, 2021.
A federal judge this week ruled Pence must testify about conversations he had with Trump leading up to the insurrection, but does not have to testify about his own actions as the U.S. Senate ratified the vote declaring Joe Biden as president.
“If you listen to my speeches and interviews that I’ve done over the last two years, you’ll know that I think the American people deserve the whole story,” Pence told reporters. “As time goes on, people will know that we have nothing to hide.”
Pence said he will be speaking with his lawyers this week about how to proceed after the judge’s determination.
Linn County Republicans who listened to Pence said they think he has a tough road ahead if he chooses to run for president.
“It’s pretty hard to compete against Trump, who draws 7,000, 10,000, 12,000 people to his events,” said Bernie Hayes, president of the Linn County Republicans. “Trump is way ahead.”
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