Former Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday night that Republicans must unite and “move forward” in the wake of the divisive pro-Trump riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6 if they want to defeat President Biden‘s “radical” left agenda.
Opening up about his role presiding over the infamous Electoral College count, Mr. Pence said he performed his constitutional “duty.”
Then-President Trump had pressured Mr. Pence publicly to object to certifying the votes from several contested states, and continues to criticize him for failing to do so.
Mr. Pence said he and Mr. Trump, who still claims the election was stolen from him, “have spoken many times since we left office.”
“I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye-to-eye on that day,” Mr. Pence said. “But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years.”
Speaking at the annual Hillsborough County Lincoln-Reagan Dinner, Mr. Pence urged the GOP to unite and put the Jan. 6 controversy behind them.
“I will not allow Democrats or their allies in the media to use one tragic day to discredit the aspirations of millions of Americans, or allow Democrats or their allies in the media to distract our attention from a new administration intent on dividing our country to advance their radical agenda,” he said.
“My fellow Republicans, for our country, for our future, for our children and our grandchildren, we must move forward united. Let’s press on with a positive agenda,” Mr. Pence said.
The former vice president’s appearance raised speculation about his intentions in 2024. It was the first high-profile visit by a potential GOP contender this year to New Hampshire, which holds the first primary in the nation.
The former vice president said Republicans will regain control in Washington “in 2022 and 2024.”
“Believe it,” he said. “We’ve just got to … tell our story and come together.”
The bulk of his speech criticized Mr. Biden as “the most liberal president since FDR” and said the administration’s embrace of Critical Race Theory is teaching students “to be ashamed of the color of their skin.”
He also said the GOP must defeat election-law legislation in Congress that would “nationalize” standards for state elections.
“Election integrity is a national imperative, but a state responsibility,” Mr. Pence said. “We’re not going to let [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi override New Hampshire’s constitution.”
Mr. Pence slammed Mr. Biden on a range of policy reversals from the Trump administration. He said the Democrat misled voters in 2020 about his liberal intentions.
“In 2020, Joe Biden was campaigning as a moderate — but he’s literally governed as the most liberal president since FDR,” Mr. Pence said. “I don’t believe for one moment that’s what the American people voted for in 2020. They did not vote to give away their borders, their safety, their prosperity, their freedom, or their future. It’s time for freedom-loving Americans to unite behind an agenda that will bring America back.”
He criticized Mr. Biden’s leadership for “an avalanche of big-government liberal policies” and “an explosion of runaway spending.”
Mr. Pence said the administration “unleashed the worst border crisis in history,” and he blamed Mr. Biden’s “weak leadership” abroad for the renewed fighting between Palestinians and Israel.
The former vice president cited an increase in violence in the U.S., saying Democrats’ efforts to defund police departments “has set off a violent crime wave that’s wreaking havoc in families all across the nation.”
“Black lives are not endangered by police; black lives are saved by police every day,” he said.
The former vice president also spoke in April in South Carolina, another key early-voting state in the presidential primaries.
Mr. Trump will speak on Saturday night at a North Carolina GOP event.
The former vice president praised Mr. Trump’s record, saying he “showed us what Republicans can accomplish when our leaders stand firm on conservative principles and don’t back down.”
“We made a difference,” he said. “We made America greater than ever before.”
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, introduced Mr. Pence and praised his leadership during the pandemic, saying he always took governors’ phone calls during the crisis.
“Not quite the same nowadays,” Mr. Sununu said of the Biden White House. “They don’t talk to us. They don’t get on the phone. They don’t even fake it … really not involved.”
Mr. Pence said one of the “most disturbing developments” this year has been the Biden administration’s “whole-hearted embrace of the radical left’s all-encompassing assault on American culture and values.”
“Under the Biden administration, patriotic education has been replaced with political indoctrination,” Mr. Pence said. “They abolished our 1776 Commission and authorized teaching Critical Race Theory in public schools. Instead of teaching all children to be proud of their country, regardless of race or creed or color, Critical Race Theory teaches children as young as kindergarten to be ashamed of the color of their skin.”
He said the U.S. must “discard the left-wing myth of systemic racism.”
“America is not a racist country. America is the most just, righteous, noble, and inclusive nation ever to exist on the face of the Earth,” Mr. Pence said.
He also took aim at congressional Democrats’ election-law overhaul, backed by Mr. Biden, that would set national standards for state elections. For example, the House-passed bill would bar states from requiring voter ID.
“After an election that saw several states around the country set aside election laws enacted by state legislatures — now is the time for states to ensure one person, one vote,” he said. “We’re going to defend state-based election reform. We’re going to support voter ID, and we’re going to work every day to restore the confidence of every American in every vote.”
• Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.