CLIVE, IOWA – Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina is taking aim at the politics of “grievance,” in an indirect shot at former President Donald Trump, the front-runner in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
And former Vice President Mike Pence – who along with Scott is expected in the coming weeks to launch a campaign for the White House – is spotlighting his policy differences with his former running mate over a key issue with the Republican base – banning abortion.
Both Scott and Pence – along with a handful of the other actual and potential Republican presidential contenders in the emerging nomination race – were in Iowa this weekend to speak in front of a large crowd of influential evangelical leaders in the state that leads off the GOP nominating calendar.
Scott, a rising star in the GOP and the only Black Republican in the Senate, recently launched a presidential exploratory committee as he offers what he calls an “optimistic, positive message anchored in conservativism.”
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During a stop Saturday at a farm outside of Des Moines, Scott was asked by Fox News if his message is receptive to Republican primary voters or if they’re hungering for a fighter.
“I think people want a fighter and that’s good, but we also want to win, and that’s better,” Scott said. “The real question is how do we do that? And one of the ways we do that is make sure that our message is in synch with what voters want and what the nation needs. And I will say so far, so good. I am excited about where we. I am excited about the response to the message. But we have work to do and we’ll get it done.”
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Trump, who in November launched his third White House run, has continued to relitigate his 2020 election loss to President Biden as he repeats his unproven claims that his defeat was due to an election “stolen” through “massive voter fraud.”
The former president listing his legal grievances has also become a campaign staple, and at a rally last month in Texas Trump stressed that “for those who have been wronged and betrayed …I am your retribution.”
Scott, taking aim at Trump without mentioning the former president’s name, told reporters that “I believe that our nation has a decision to make – are we going to be the country that focuses on grievance or are we going to be the county that allows the seeds of greatness to germinate. I’m voting for germination, greatness.”
Scott, who’s continuing his so-called “Faith in America” listening tour, demurred on whether he’s moving closer to formally launching a presidential campaign. “My goal really isn’t to figure out a timeline, my goal is to continue to listen. The more I listen, the better off I am,” he said.
Pence, who’s made numerous trips to Iowa the past two years as he moves towards launching a presidential campaign, said recently that he’ll have a 2024 decision in weeks. He told Fox News on Saturday night after speaking to evangelical voters at a major gathering of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition in suburban Des Moines that “I’ll keep you posted if I’m going to be spending a lot more time in Iowa.”
Trump, addressing the crowd remotely, touted that he was “the most pro-life president in American history” and spotlighted future efforts he would take to restrict abortions.
Trump pointed to the three justices he appointed to the Supreme Court who “delivered a landmark victory for protecting innocent life.” He was referring to the blockbuster move last June by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn the landmark nearly half-century-old Roe v. Wade ruling, which allowed for legalized abortions nationwide. The decision by the high court moved the divisive issue of abortion back to the states.
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But his position – reiterated this week by his campaign – that in the wake of last year’s high court ruling the issue of abortion restrictions should be left up to the states drew a sharp rebuke Thursday by Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a top abortion group. It called Trump’s comments a “morally indefensible position for a self-proclaimed pro-life presidential candidate.”
The group said it would not support any White House candidate who does back – at a minimum – a 15-week federal abortion ban. Trump, in his comments on Saturday, didn’t say whether he’d support a national ban.
Pence, speaking with reporters, took issue with his former running mate on abortion. The former vice president, answering a question from Fox News, noted his differences with Trump on the issue, saying that last year’s Supreme Court ruling “did not mean that it’s a state’s only issue. All it meant was that states now have the ability to craft legislation that protects the unborn.”
“I also hold to the view that Americans want to see leaders at both ends of Pennsylvania Ave. who will stand for the sanctity of life,” Pence emphasized. “We’ve got an incredible and historic opportunity to advance the cause of life.”
And he reiterated his backing of a federal abortion ban, saying, “I’ll support any effort to support the sanctity of life to the center of American law.”
Ramaswamy says he ‘can go further than Trump’
Multi-millionaire entrepreneur, best-selling author, and conservative commentator Vivek Ramaswamy is pushing an America First agenda as he runs for the GOP presidential nomination.
And like Scott, he’s taking aim at Trump over the former president’s grievances.
“Part of the reason that I think I can go further than Trump is that like Reagan, when can get more done if we’re doing it based on first principles and yes, I will say it – moral authority rather than just based on vengeance and grievance,” Ramaswamy argued in a Fox Digital interview in Jefferson, Iowa after addressing an Iowa Federation of Republican Women event.
And Ramaswamy think, “You only get to be an outsider once. I’m 37 years old. I’ve got fresh legs. I’m ready to go the distance. And eight years from now, maybe I’ll be jaded, cynical, tired, and defeated too. But today, I’m actually ready to carry that torch forward. And to me, it’s about taking that America First agenda to the next level.”
Perry Johnson vows to earn ‘every vote’
Ramaswamy was making his way across Iowa in a campaign bus. But he wasn’t the only candidate sporting a bus. So was Michigan businessman Perry Johnson, who declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination early last month.
Johnson, in a Fox News Digital interview in Des Moines this weekend, spotlighted that he was campaigning the Iowa way – with candidate-to-voter retail style politics.
“We are going diner to diner, earning every vote,” he emphasized. And asked about his long-shot status, Johnson countered that “nobody knows anything until you get to that debate stage.”
Speaking to the crowd at the Iowa Faith and Freedom gathering, Johnson noted that he’s “pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, anti-woke, anti-China, pro-American worker.” And he spotlighted his “two cents to save America” plan.
“We’re going to cut two cents out of every dollar. That means the government’s not going to be spending all that money, they’re reducing it every year, and we’re going to balance that budget,” he explained.
Johnson ran last year for the 2022 GOP gubernatorial nomination in Michigan and was considered a top contender before he and four other Republican hopefuls were disqualified because of invalid signatures. Like Ramaswamy, he’s invested millions of his own money in his White House bid.