(SIOUX CITY, Iowa) — During his campaign swing through Iowa, former Vice President Mike Pence encountered a resident angry over his role in certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election on Jan. 6, 2021.
“Do you ever second-guess yourself?” a woman asked Pence during a campaign stop Wednesday evening at Pizza Ranch, after noting that he “changed history” and that “if it wasn’t for [Pence’s] votes, Biden wouldn’t be in the White House.”
Pence defended his actions, calling the events of that day “misunderstood” in the face of former President Donald Trump’s continued false assertion that Pence could have overturned the results of the last election, something he had authority to do.
“The Constitution affords no authority — the vice president or anyone else — to reject votes or return votes to the states. Never been done before, should never be done. And I’m sorry, ma’am, but that’s actually what the Constitution says,” Pence told her.
“No vice president in American history ever asserted the authority that you have been convinced that I had. And I will tell you, with all due respect, I said before — I said when I announced: President Trump was wrong about my authority that day and is still wrong,” he said.
Pence directly answered the woman’s claim that he had “a constitutional right … to send those votes back to the states,” by explaining that elections are determined at the state level; his role was just to oversee Congress’ certification of the 2020 Electoral College results.
Asked about the exchange with reporters after the event, Pence said that he welcomed the opportunity to explain his actions on Jan. 6, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, overrode security and vandalized the building, sending Pence and other lawmakers into hiding.
“Frankly, I welcomed the opportunity to speak about it today. Because I know that my former running mate continues to hold the view that I had some authority that the Constitution had never given any vice president in history, and did not give me,” Pence said.
“That’s why I looked her in the eye and I said President Trump was wrong then, and President Trump is still wrong. I had no right to overturn the election,” he added.
Pence, who has fielded a number of questions on the campaign trail related how his candidacy is different from that of his former running mate, maintains that he “stood loyal to Trump until my oath to the Constitution required me to step away,” among a number of veiled swipes at his former boss, usually centered around the value of civility in political life.
But the confrontation with the Iowan was the first time in a multi-day, question-filled campaign swing in the Hawkeye State in which Pence had to deal with suggestions he had been disloyal to Trump.
The encounter illuminated a persistent question looming over Pence’s White House bid: Could he campaign — and win — despite Trump supporters seeing him as the chief reason Trump is not currently in the White House?
Nationally, Pence trails Trump in the polls by more than 46 points, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling averages.
Pence thinks he can. “Ultimately, I think that the people in our movement, like most Americans, cherish our Constitution,” he said. “I have great confidence in Republican voters. I know the people of our movement.”
In Sioux City on Wednesday, Pence told the crowd that in order for Republicans to win upcoming elections — especially after the pitfalls of the 2022 midterms — they would need to move on from election denialism.
“I really think this next election has got to be about the future. If we spend the next election talking about the past, you’re going to get four more years of Democrats in the White House,” Pence said.
“Our candidates that spent the 22 midterm elections talking about re-litigating the last election, lost and they lost in places we should have won.”
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