ANKENY, Iowa — Several hundred supporters gathered here on Wednesday afternoon to see former Vice President Mike Pence kick off his 2024 presidential campaign with his first event after filing earlier this week to formally enter the race.

Pence’s event, at the FFA Enrichment Center here just outside the state capital, marks what his team says is the beginning of a major focus on Iowa ahead of the caucuses in January. Pence, as Breitbart News previously reported, intends to visit all 99 counties in Iowa as part of his campaign.

Pence, who served in Congress then as governor of Indiana and later as Vice President under former President Donald Trump, is the latest high-profile entrance into the 2024 field. His entrance comes after former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum joined the field this week, and recently Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis entered as well. Other declared candidates include of course the frontrunner Trump, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.

Pence’s speech here zoned in on his history as an elected leader, and aimed to tap into the discontent Americans have with the current direction of the nation.

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks to local residents during a meet and greet on May 23, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

“I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican–in that order–and it’s been my honor to serve you. Many of you might know me from my last assignment in the White House, but what you may not know is I was also a congressman from Indiana for 12 years,” Pence said. “I was a leader for House conservatives. We fought for life and liberty. I battled against big spenders in both political parties during those years… I was a governor in Indiana who cut taxes… we achieved record employment and expanded educational choice and stood for the right to life and religious freedom. And as your vice president, I was proud to stand by President Donald Trump every single day when we made America great again. Everything I am, everything I will ever be, I owe to my family, the people of this country, and to almighty God… I truly do believe in the boundless potential of every American to live the American dream. But traveling around this country the past two years since I left office, it feels different. Talking to our fellow Americans, I see weariness on the faces everywhere I go. I hear it in their voices. I don’t have to tell any of you here: This country is in a lot of trouble.”

Trump has been the polling leader since earlier this year, after he retook the lead from DeSantis who briefly had it with an early spike late last year after his midterm election performance. Trump, for his part, seems to have stabilized the nature of the race and has seen double-digit leads in basically every single poll for months, in both national and state-level surveys. DeSantis, who was seen as the most serious challenger to Trump, has not seen any bump in polling since entering the race — a weakness that seems to have invited a broad array of other challengers such as Christie, Pence, Burgum, Scott, and more into the field to give a run a go.

The fact Pence is entering the field against his former running mate is the first time since 1940 that a president, current or former, has faced a challenge from his former vice president. In 1940, then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt — while seeking a third term — fended off a challenge from his former Vice President John Nance Garner.

Pence, if he succeeds in toppling Trump, would be the first ever vice president to defeat his former running mate in American history.

Pence made clear in his speech he intends to defend the record of policy accomplishments he and Trump achieved while in office together from 2017 to early 2021.

“While some in this contest have already taken to criticizing the record of the Trump-Pence administration, let me be clear: I am incredibly proud of everything we accomplished for the American people,” Pence said. “Together in three short years, we cut taxes, we destroyed ISIS, we stood by our allies and stood up to our enemies like never before, and we made the strongest military in the history of the world stronger than ever before. We gave historic prosperity and hope that lifted all Americans regardless of race and creed and color. We achieved energy independence and maybe, maybe most important of all, it was our administration that appointed three of the Justices that sent Roe versus Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs.”

That said, however, Pence said the reason he is running against Trump is because of what happened on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump supporters gather outside the U.S. Capitol building following a “Stop the Steal” rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“Now, given our record, it might be fair to ask why I’m challenging my former running mate,” Pence told the audience here. “It begins with a promise I made to the American people and to almighty God…and it ends with two different visions for the future of our nation and our party. January 6 was a tragic day in the life of our nation. But thanks to the courage of law enforcement, the violence was quelled and we reconvened the Congress the very same day to complete the work of the American people under the Constitution of the United States. As I’ve said many times, on that day, President Trump’s words were reckless. He endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol. But the American people deserve to know that on that day, President Trump also demanded I choose between him and the Constitution — now voters will be faced with the same choice. I chose the Constitution.”

The crowd burst into applause giving Pence one of many standing ovations during his address here.

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Pence said the Constitution “provides [that] the president of the Senate–the Vice President–shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and the votes shall be counted. No more no less.”

“Despite the fact that the Constitution’s language is clear and provides the vice president with no authority to reject or return electoral votes, my former running mate continues to insist that I had the right to overturn the election,” Pence said. “President Trump was wrong then and he is wrong now. I will always believe, by God’s grace, I did my duty that day. I kept my oath to ensure the peaceful transfer of power under the Constitution of the United States. Let me say from my heart, I understand the disappointment that many still feel about the outcome of the 2020 election. I can relate. I was on the ballot. But I had no right to overturn the election and Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn our election when we beat them in 2024.”

The audience gave Pence another standing ovation.

Pence also said despite all of that he “will always be grateful for what President Trump did for this country.”

‘I have often prayed for him in the years since,” Pence said, adding that he “had hoped he would come around and see that he had been misled about my role that day but he has not.”

Pence also drew several policy contrasts with Trump during this campaign launch address.

He said that in 2016 Trump “promised to govern as a conservative” and “together we did just that.”

“Today, he makes no such promise,” Pence said of Trump.

The policy critiques included those on the issues of life and entitlement reform, two areas where Pence openly disagrees with Trump.

“After leading the most pro-life administration in American history, Donald Trump and others in this race are retreating from the cause of the unborn,” Pence said. “The sanctity of life has been our party’s calling for half a century – long before Donald Trump was ever a part of it. Now he treats it as an inconvenience, even blaming election losses on overturning Roe v. Wade.”

The debt issue, too, is front and center right now after Congress just cleared a debt ceiling plan last week.

“As your president, I promise you I will tell the American people the truth about our debt crisis and offer common sense and compassionate reforms to save these programs for our senior todays and give young Americans a better deal tomorrow,” Pence said, noting that current estimates have Medicare and Social Security trust funds running insolvent within just a few years.

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