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Mike Pence urges conservatives to look ahead as a Trump-shaped cloud looms behind him.


WASHINGTON — Red and blue spotlights shone from the ceiling as former Vice President Mike Pence took the stage. The music of the anthem came from the hotel ballroom speakers that surrounded him. Some audience members raised their cell phones to take pictures.

But the festive undertones and heavy bass couldn’t distract from the fact that, for many Republicans, the life of the party was right down the street from the nation’s capital, where preparations for former President Donald Trump’s speech were taking place. J. Trump later in the day.

One of the most uncomfortable divisions within the GOP was on full display Tuesday when the two-time running mates, and possible rivals in the 2024 presidential campaign, set out to offer conflicting visions for the country from two Marriott hotels separated by less than a mile from downtown Washington.

And on Monday, news emerged that two of Pence’s top aides had testified before a federal grand jury in Washington as part of the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the events surrounding the riots.

Pence’s speech, in which he referred to Jan. 6 in passing as a “tragic day,” omitted the kind of effusive praise for Trump that he used to inject into his speeches as vice president. Pence drew subtle distinctions between Trump’s fixation on the 2020 election and his own preference for fighting the upcoming political battles.

“Some people may choose to focus on the past, but the election is about the future,” Pence said.

He repeatedly referred to the achievements of the “Trump-Pence” administration when he called for a movement of cultural conservatives to roll back a “pernicious awakening agenda” that, he argued, “allowed the radical left to continue dumping toxic waste in the headwaters of the rivers. Our culture.”

Mr. Pence welcomed the recent Supreme Court ruling stripping away the federal right to abortion, noting that the decision had been made possible by three justices “appointed by the Trump-Pence administration.”

“Save the babies, we’ll save America,” Pence said.

Pence, a mild-mannered former Indiana governor, described himself as future-focused and eager to tell Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin things he “didn’t want to hear.”

But he couldn’t escape the direct contrast to Trump. As Pence finished his speech, the first question from the audience of young conservatives at a Young America’s Foundation conference was about Trump “and the divide between you two.”

“I don’t know if our movement is that divided. I don’t know if the president and I differ on issues, but we may differ on approach,” Pence said.

Pence is seen as considering a presidential bid in 2024, but he will face tough challenges.

In a New York Times/Siena College poll of Republican voters this month, just 6 percent said they would vote for Pence if the 2024 Republican presidential primary were held today, compared with 49 percent for Trump and the 25 percent for the governor. Rum DeSantis from Florida.



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