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Pence, in Iowa, charges Biden trying to turn America into a ‘secular welfare state’

DES MOINES, Iowa – Former Vice President Mike Pence, making his first visit to Iowa since the end of the Trump administration, took aim at President Biden and spotlighted his social conservative credentials as he addressed a major gathering of Christian conservatives in the state whose caucuses for half a century have led off the presidential nominating calendar.

“I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican in that order,” Pence said on Friday, repeating a well-used line as he addressed the 10th annual Family Leadership Summit, which is hosted by the Family Leader, a top, Iowa-based social conservative organization of White evangelicals.

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“To turn this country around, we need to turn the American people back to God, back to one nation under God,” Pence told the crowd of some 1,200 people at a convention center in downtown Des Moines, Iowa’s capital and largest city.

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the Family Leadership Summit, Friday, July 16, 2021, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

“We need to defend believers all across the county,” Pence said. “We need to reject every effort to marginalize Christians and conservatives…We must never allow our schools or government agencies or corporations to persecute the American people because of their deeply held religious beliefs.”

Pence, a congressman and Indiana governor before serving as vice president under Donald Trump, has long been a strong ally to the social conservative movement.

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Longtime Family Leader CEO and president Bob Vander Plaats told Fox News earlier in the week: “Our base knows him (Pence) very well. They were huge supporters of him when President Trump chose him to be vice president. I think it’s one of the things that made our base comfortable with a President Trump.”

While the Democrats won control of the White House and the Senate – and retained their majority in the House – in last year’s elections, Pence said he was optimistic. He pointed to the unexpected success the GOP had in the 2020 contests in taking a big bite out of the Democrats’ House majority. And he also pointed to the Republican wave of 2010, when the Republicans won back the House, and 2014 and 2016, when the GOP recaptured the Senate and then the White House.

“We’re going to do it all again in the next three and a half years,” he predicted. And he emphasized that “an unapologetic stand for the sanctity of life” is a key part of having “a winning agenda.”

As he’s repeatedly done in speeches in recent months, Pence also fired salvos at Biden.

“I came here today to say that after 177 days of open borders, higher taxes, runaway spending, defunding the police, abortion on demand, censoring free speech, canceling our most cherished liberties, I’ve had enough,” the former vice president said. 

“The time has come for every American dedicated to faith and freedom to stand up and fight back against the agenda of the radical left,” he said.

He also accused Biden of being “intent on transforming America into a European style secular welfare state.” And he slammed the current administration for what he charged was its “wholehearted embrace of the radical left’s all-encompassing assault on American culture.”

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Pence started his day headlining a fundraiser in northwest Iowa for GOP Rep. Randy Feenstra. Pence has been crisscrossing the country in recent months helping raise money and campaign for Republicans running in the 2022 midterm elections.

But his Iowa visit is sparking more speculation about Pence making a possible White House run in 2024. His trip to the Hawkeye State follows high profile stops earlier this year in New Hampshire – the state that’s held the first presidential primary for a century and which votes second after Iowa in the nominating calendar – and South Carolina, which holds the first southern primary and votes third in the Republican calendar.