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Pence breaks with, and avoids talking about, Trump in Georgia

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KENNESAW, Ga. — In a pointed rebuke to Donald Trump, the president he loyally served for four years, former Vice President Mike Pence aggressively touted the candidacy of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp at a campaign rally Monday.

Trump’s anger at Kemp stems from the aftermath of the 2020 election. When it became clear that Joe Biden had become the first Democrat to carry the Peach State since 1992, Trump demanded that Kemp try to overturn the results. Kemp refused, leading Trump to recruit former Sen. David Perdue to challenge Kemp in Tuesday’s Republican primary.

Former Vice President Mike Pence and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp wave to the crowd at a rally.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp at a rally in Kennesaw, Ga., on Monday. (Brynn Anderson/AP)

Polls indicate that Kemp is all but certain to win in a landslide over Perdue. But some who turned out to see Pence speak on Monday night had another contest on their minds: the 2024 GOP presidential primaries, in which Trump and Pence are increasingly expected to run against each other.

While Trump remains the early favorite for the nomination, Pence is touring early primary states in an effort to gin up enthusiasm for his own bid. Marc Short, a top Pence aide, pointed out to a reporter Monday that Pence will be heading to New Hampshire on Thursday to headline an event for Republican women, and has already made his way to Iowa and South Carolina.

Speaking before roughly 300 people in a hangar at the Cobb County International Airport, Pence avoided talk of Trump or 2024. Instead, he stuck to the matter at hand, praising Kemp while knocking Stacey Abrams, who is running unopposed for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

David Perdue
Republican gubernatorial candidate and former Sen. David Perdue campaigning in Plainville, Ga., on May 20. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“The Democratic Party has been taken over by a radical left wing that has literally lost its grip on everything that has made this country great, [and] with the full support of Stacey Abrams has unleashed a tidal wave of left-wing policies that has ruined our standing in the world and stifled the American economy,” Pence said to applause. “The Democratic Party has moved so fast that I think sometimes the left hand doesn’t know what the far left hand is doing.”

Pence did, however, laud the work of what he called the “Trump-Pence administration” while burnishing his credentials as an anti-abortion crusader.

“We pray that our five Supreme Court Justices listed in that draft opinion will have the courage of their convictions,” Pence said. “Hold firm. We pray that they will send Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs.”

Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, on May 14. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

One attendee at Monday’s rally, Bob Powser, told Yahoo News that he liked Pence and “could see a Pence-Kemp ticket” in 2024. “I would work on that campaign,” said his wife, Renee.

As for Trump? Bob Powser described himself as a fan, but eventually got turned off by all of Trump’s antics — or, as he described it, “the noise.”

“I loved his policies and the fact that he kept the economy on track in this country,” Powser said, while crediting Pence with keeping “things balanced” in the Trump White House.

Although Trump has reportedly given up on a Perdue victory, he did call into a “tele-rally” for his handpicked Kemp challenger. And the former president also took aim at Pence in an interview with right-wing radio host John Fredericks on Monday.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, behind a lectern that reads Kemp, speaks at a rally.
Pence at the rally in Kennesaw, Ga., on Monday. (Alyssa Pointer/Reuters)

“I’m very disappointed in Mike, as a lot of people are,” Trump said. “And he just greatly disappointed me.”

Among those not disappointed with Pence on Monday were Bob and Renee Powser. When asked about the break between the two men, Bob Powser replied with a shrug.

“Trump threw Pence under the bus first,” he said.