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‘The Republican Party did not start in 2015 on a golden escalator’

WASHINGTON — Though he announced his candidacy in late spring, former Vice President Mike Pence said campaigns don’t really begin until after Labor Day. And if this is the real beginning of his 2024 bid for the White House, he begins it with his strongest criticism of his former boss.

So far, running behind former President Donald Trump in the primary, Pence has tried to find the thread between criticizing Trump as leader while touting his record in the Trump-Pence administration on the campaign trail.

But Pence turned his sharpest target on Trump this week, making it clear that Republican voters have a choice in the 2024 election.

“Shall we be the party of conservatism or shall we follow the siren song of populism, detached from conservative principles?” Pence said at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. “The future of this movement in this party belongs to one or the other – not both.”

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The Republican presidential nominee, former Vice President Mike Pence, is introduced at the Fiserv Forum during the first 2023 Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee on Wednesday, August 23, 2023.

Pence said the populist movement in the Republican Party would rather “replace our belief in limited government and traditional values ​​with an agenda sewn together by little other than personal grievances and performative outrage.”

He added that Trump and his imitators “often sound like an echo of the progressives they are trying to replace” and called progressive movements on the left and populist movements on the right “fellow travelers on the same road to destruction.”

“When Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, he promised to run conservatively, and together we did,” Pence said. “But it is important for Republicans to know that he and his imitators in this Republican Party are not making such a promise today.”

He called on the party to emulate former President Ronald Reagan’s ideals, including “his belief in liberty and economic freedom” and his “dignified and civilized way of conducting himself as president to meet today’s challenges.” .

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“The truth is, the Republican Party didn’t start 2015 on a golden escalator,” referring to how Trump announced his 2015 presidential nominee.

Responding to Pence’s speech, Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, said Trump’s victory in the 2016 election “exposed the huge divide between voters across the country and the establishment. Insiders from the Beltway, who made terrible trade deals, allowed our southern border to be overrun and never miss a chance to play world agent.”

“The conservative movement and the Republican Party have changed for the better, and no one wants things to go back to what they were,” Miller said.

When asked on CNN if he regrets comparing Trump to Reagan at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Pence said “not the least.”

“In 2016, Donald Trump promised governance and…we governed as conservatives…but what I said yesterday in New Hampshire is that both Donald Trump and many of his imitators in this field are walking away from those same principles,” Pence said.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mike Pence speech warns Trump’s populism could be ‘road to ruin’

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