Mike Pence talks presidential prospects, Trump in campus speech

The former vice president participated in an interview with Fox News anchor Bret Baier for 2024’s Mock Convention

Melos Ambaye, Staff Writer

A white haired man in a suit speaks, standing with two women in dresses. A news camera is in the left foreground.
Pence talks with reporters before giving his address in University Chapel. Photo by Jenny Hellwig, ’24 (Jenny Hellwig)

Former Vice President Mike Pence revealed during a campus visit that he’ll announce whether he’s running for president before summer.
Pence addressed students at Washington and Lee on March 21 for Mock Convention’s Spring Kickoff Event.

The event included a speech from Pence and a moderated discussion between the former vice president and Bret Baier, chief political anchor for Fox News.

Mock Convention decided to bring Pence to campus in part because the former vice president has signaled he wants to be the 2024 Republican nominee, a student spokesperson said.

“Pence was such an interesting speaker because there is a question of his running for president,” Mock Convention Press Secretary Addie-Grace Cook, ’26, said. “The event offered a window into what a potential Pence campaign could look like.”

He’s still deciding on “whether we might enter that national race and whether we might be one of the people that Mock Con is thinking about,” Pence said to a sold-out audience in University Chapel. “But I promise to keep you all posted.”

Regardless of who the Republican nominee is, Pence said he is confident the GOP will “win back America come 2024.”

The former vice president said Donald Trump was the only person that could have defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016. But he thinks there will be better options for 2024.

Although he is proud of the Trump-Pence record, Pence acknowledged the final days of the Trump presidency were dark ones.

“140 law enforcement officers were injured,” Pence said in reference to the U.S. Capitol riots on Jan. 6.

“But I will always believe because of the courage of those police officers, and federal officials that joined, we turned a day of tragedy into a triumph of freedom. Our institutions held that day.”

Pence holds Trump accountable for Jan. 6, but said there were irregularities in the election that undermined the confidence of the American people.

He said dozens of states changed their election rules in the name of COVID-19, and those changes were upheld by courts. But Pence said there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Pence addressed Washington and Lee the same day many expected Trump to face an indictment from a Manhattan grand jury. The former vice president discouraged Americans from protesting a possible Trump indictment even if they are angry.

“I understand the frustration,” he said to reporters before the event. “If the president is in fact indicted by the Manhattan DA, that appears to me to be a politically motivated prosecution.”

While Pence took time to discuss the current state of affairs in Washington, he also encouraged students to look ahead and address the bipartisan problems that will affect future generations.

One of the most pressing issues the American people face is the national debt crisis, Pence said. He criticized the Biden administration and GOP leaders for failing to discuss reforms of Social Security and Medicare.

“Over the next 30 years, Social Security and Medicare along with interest on the national debt will face a shortfall of $116 trillion,” Pence said. “That’s on top of our current debt of nearly $32 trillion.

A national debt of $150 trillion dollars would be five times the size of our economy, Pence said. He said that amount of debt would surpass the levels that we’ve seen in recent decades.

“That’s not a mountain of debt on your generation,” he said. “That’s a mountain range of debt.”

Pence said introducing “common sense reforms” to federal entitlement programs will not harm anyone retiring within the next 25 years. But he did not identify the reforms he was referring to.
Baier asked the former vice president why the Trump-Pence administration did not deal with the entitlement issue.

“Our administration never committed to the kind of common sense, compassionate reforms that I talked about today,” Pence said. “My old running mate holds the same position that Joe Biden holds on this— and that is that we won’t even talk about reform on Social Security and Medicaid. That is simply not sustainable.”

But Pence and Biden do share a similar position on the war in Ukraine.

“The United States of America must continue to give the courageous fighters in Ukraine the support they need to repel the Russian invasion and secure their sovereignty,” Pence said.

He described the war in Ukraine as not a territorial dispute, but an invasion, rebuking comments from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another possible 2024 presidential contender. Russia will not stop if they overtake Ukraine, Pence said, which may mean eventual U.S. involvement in a European war.
“Ukraine is not our war. But freedom is our fight,” he said.

Pence said bringing back America to prosperity in an increasingly uncertain world requires finding common ground. If he enters the presidential race, Pence said what makes him distinct from Trump is his willingness to prioritize working across party lines to solve issues.

The American people “want to see us get back to a kind of civility and a threshold of respect that used to exist not that long ago in American politics,” he said.