Pence intensifies attacks on Trump as GOP primary heats up

Bryon Houlgrave/AP

Former Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday intensified his attacks on his former boss, hitting former President Donald Trump over everything from his abortion messaging to comments about the war in Ukraine.

“When Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, he promised to govern as a conservative. For four years, we did govern as conservatives, but, today, Donald Trump makes no such promise,” Pence told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

“He’s embracing the politics of appeasement on the world stage, walking away from our role as leader of the free world. He’s willing to ignore the debt crisis facing Americans. And he wants to marginalize the right to life,” Pence said.

The comments from Pence represent a significant escalation in his campaign attacks on Trump. While the former Indiana governor has repeatedly denounced Trump’s actions on January 6, 2021, he has been more cautious about going after the Republican front-runner on other issues.

Asked about Trump’s comments to NBC that he would get Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a room and “have a deal worked out,” Pence said: “Look, the only way this war would end in a day, as my former running mate says, is if you let Vladimir Putin have what he wants, which, frankly, other candidates for the Republican nomination are advocating as well.”

Pence similarly sought to distance himself from Trump on abortion at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s fall banquet Saturday night. Speaking to a friendly crowd of evangelical conservatives, Pence reiterated his support for a federal ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy as a minimum, saying, “It’s an idea whose time has come.” Pence said Trump and other GOP candidates want to relegate the abortion issue to the states, “but I won’t have it.”

And earlier this month, Pence called on his party to turn away from what he described as a growing threat of populism led by Trump and “his imitators.” The former vice president said that Trump often sounds “like an echo” of President Joe Biden and that Trump was ignoring a coming US debt crisis.

The stream of attacks comes as Trump continues to hold what has proven to be an unshakeable position atop the Republican field of candidates vying to take on Biden next year, according to a CNN poll released earlier this month.

More than 4 in 10 in the potential GOP primary electorate say they have definitely decided to support Trump for the nomination (43% are definite Trump backers, 20% are firmly behind another candidate, and 37% have no first choice or say they could change their minds).

CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi contributed reporting.

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