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Former Vice President Mike Pence visits Keene, N.H., to speak at a dinner hosted by the Cheshire County GOP on Thursday, March 16, 2023. Pence is a potential candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, but he has not made an announcement.

KEENE, N.H. — Former Vice President Mike Pence distanced himself from potential presidential rivals Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, during a visit to Keene on Thursday night.

"Now, I know our former president has said that I had the right to overturn the election," said Pence to about 150 people gathered in the ballroom of the Best Western in a benefit for the Cheshire County GOP. "But Donald Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone. ... I have no right to change the outcome of the election. And Kamala Harris will have no right to change the outcome of the election when we beat them in 2024."

He characterized Jan. 6, 2021, as "a dark day in the history of the United States ..."

"But thanks for the courageous action of law enforcement, the riot was quelled. We reconvened the Congress the very same day and completed our work under the Constitution of the United States."

He also took aim at DeSantis, who recently said defending Ukraine is not in the "vital interest" of the United States, claiming it's nothing more than "a territorial dispute."

"The Russian invasion is not a territorial dispute," said Pence. "It was an act of unprovoked aggression against a sovereign nation, and it must be met with American strength."

Pence summoned the legacy of former President Ronald Reagan, who said if the United States doesn't fight the communists in other countries, we'll be fighting them here.

"America is the arsenal of democracy," said Pence. "And we must be the leader of the free world. And we must continue to provide the courageous Ukrainian military the support they need to drive Russia off their territory."

But he blamed the Biden administration for the Russian aggression.

"I can't help but believe that that disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan by the Biden administration has emboldened the enemies of freedom around the world," said Pence, adding that the withdrawal did not diminish "the service and sacrifice of men and women who defended our nation in Afghanistan."

Pence declined to say if he was running for president, saying only that his visit to the Granite State was part of "considering" whether he should run.

He said he and his wife have welcomed three new grandchildren, and he himself is now the proud owner of a John Deere zero-turn riding mower with a 54-inch deck.

"While our lives have changed an awful lot, times have changed in ways we couldn't have imagined just a short time ago," he said. "If you ever needed to steel your resolve ... we need to put this country back on a track to security and prosperity ..."

Pence hit a number of popular Republican talking points, including the nation's borders being "under siege," inflation at a 40-year high, gas prices "through the roof," crime skyrocketing in "many of our major cities" and falling wages.

"The national debt today is the size of our nation's economy for the first time since World War II," said Pence, though he did not note that it exceeded GDP shortly after Trump took office.

He also mentioned the recent bank failures related to Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank and First Republic, blaming them on risky bets and "pushing the agenda of the radical left in what's known as the environmental, social justice and governance agenda."

According to Fact Check, the failure is related to the 2018 rollback of Dodd-Frank regulations, which had support from Republicans and Democrats, the failure of the Federal Reserve to take notice of "red flags" and low interest rates on loans that became unprofitable with inflation.

Pence, who described himself as a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, "in that order," asserted in 2024, "We're going to win back America," and said he supports New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary.

"We need to look to New Hampshire to shape the leadership of this nation in such a time as this," he said.

"We believe in, as Republicans, a dynamic free market, a level playing field," said Pence. "But that's not what the current administration's pushing. Today, I don't need to tell you, that American freedom is under attack as never before. Seems like big government, big media and big business are pushing some pernicious woke agenda, designed to control the American people [and] trample the American dream and the values that make this country great."

Pence said that during the Trump/Pence administration, "The American Dream was working for more Americans than ever before."

He said it can again, but only with "the right leadership with the right balance."

He also characterized the Democrat agenda as "decline and decay."

"We don't have to exchange the American dream for a socialist nightmare," he said. "We need strong conservative Republican leadership to lead America back as leader of the free world, as the strongest economy that the world has ever known ..."

When "the radical left routinely demeans the American founding here in historic New England" and wants to undo the First and Second amendments, he said, it's important for Republicans to be the party of the Constitution.

"We may be the last line of defense of the Constitution of the United States."

Bob Audette can be contacted at


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