Former Vice President Mike Pence was praised by Republican presidential candidates during the first primary debate on Wednesday night for continuing to put his oath of office and the constitution of the United States first, even in the face of personal, political, and unfair pressure.
The debate, moderated by Martha MacCallum, opened with a question to Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) as to whether Pence did the right thing when he certified the results of the 2020 presidential election as a riot broke out at the U.S. Capitol.
“Absolutely, he did the right thing,” Scott replied, being met with applause from the crowd. “We should be asking ourselves a bigger question about the weaponization of the DOJ.”
Other Republican presidential contenders agreed, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who told MacCallum he had no problem with Pence and said the former vice president “did his duty.”
“I do think he did the right thing,” said former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. “We need to give him credit for that.”
Chris Christie, who worked in the Trump administration, said Pence should have the “thanks of all Americans” for sticking to his sworn oath, adding, “The argument we need to have in this party before we can move on to the issues that Ron [DeSantis] talked about, is we have to dispense with the person who said we need to suspend the Constitution to put forward his political career. Mike Pence said no, and he deserves credit.”
The only candidate who did not comment on the question was pharmaceutical executive Vivek Ramaswamy, who in his book praised Pence for his actions on January 6.
The Republican candidates’ agreement on Pence reflects an effort by the party to move on from the events of January 6 and avoid further public partisan division. The candidates largely framed the debate about the 2024 election as a battle not of ideas, but of different visions of what America should look like. As the debate proceeded, they discussed their stances on a variety of issues, from immigration to health care, taxation to foreign policy.
It remains to be seen, however, if the Republican Party’s unified front around the question of Pence will hold or if more contentious debates will arise in the future.