Bob Vander Plaats, president of the Family Leader, the group sponsoring the summit, said Mr. Pence did the right thing by tackling Jan. 6 head-on in Sioux City, though there are many voters he might never bring around.
“He has to own it and double down on it. Everybody’s got their hurdle, and this is going to be one that Mike Pence is going to have to clear.”
“Because the former president has boastfully said Pence was wrong and he wimped out and he lacked courage, his base of supporters are going to believe that. Pence is not going to win that issue with Trump’s base. But Pence isn’t trying to win Trump’s base.”
Scott Reed, co-chairman of a super PAC working to elect Mr. Pence through grass-roots organizing and advertising in Iowa, agreed. To him, Mr. Pence’s response to the voter was golden. “We put it in the can,” he said, meaning that the tape will show up in a future television ad.
“There’s a segment of the party that we’re never going to get — the Steve Bannon crowd. And there’s plenty of the party left for us to get.”
David Oman, a longtime center-right Republican strategist in Iowa who is unaffiliated with a campaign, said it was unclear whether Mr. Pence’s rebuttal of the voter — and his swipe at Mr. Trump — would help in the caucuses, which are Jan. 15, 2024.
“Will it be helpful or unhelpful in six months? We’ll see.”
“My personal view is history will be good to Mike Pence with respect to what happened on Jan. 6. Someday he’ll get the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Probably from a Democratic president.”
What the Voter Says
In a follow-up interview, Ms. Bertrand, the voter who challenged Mr. Pence, repeated a falsehood that lawyers who told Mr. Trump that his vice president could refuse states’ electoral votes had won prior cases for Mr. Trump.
(The Trump lawyer who advanced that fringe theory about the 2020 election, John Eastman, is facing disbarment in California. Mr. Pence’s legal advisers told him that Mr. Eastman was wrong, and one testified before a grand jury investigating Mr. Trump over the Jan. 6 riot.)
Although Ms. Bertrand was a Trump supporter in 2020, she is uncertain whether she will back him in the caucuses next year and said she wanted to hear from other candidates. Mr. Pence, however, failed to convince her that he acted correctly on Jan. 6.
“President Trump has been accused time and again and went to court and won every case, and so I’m under the assumption that in this case, when President Trump said he had a right to challenge Pence on his decision, it was his lawyers that told him that — the same lawyers who had come out on top before.”
“But if I am right or I am wrong is not important. To me, the idea Pence needs to know is there are people in Iowa — and I think in the entire country — that still believe this. That’s a challenge he’s up against when he’s running.”
“I did not feel that I was personally attacking him. I just wanted him to know, hey, there’s more of me than of you out there.”