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Pence Zelenskyy Ukraine Visit
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and former US Vice President Mike Pence meet in Kyiv on Thursday.AP file

Eyes on 2024: Pence makes his case for Ukraine

Seeing the “heroism” of the Ukrainian soldiers and people “just steels my resolve to do my part," former Vice President Mike Pence said in Ukraine.

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Former Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise visit to Ukraine this week, the first GOP presidential contender to visit the country, NBC News’ Dasha Burns and Abigail Brooks report from Kyiv. 

“I believe America’s the leader of the free world,” Pence told Burns and Brooks. He added that seeing the “heroism” of the Ukrainian soldiers and people “just steels my resolve to do my part, to continue to call for strong American support for our Ukrainian friends and allies.”

But his vocal defense of Ukraine and call to get the country aid faster puts Pence out of step with the rest of his party. A majority of GOP primary voters — 52% — said in the latest NBC News poll, said they would be less likely to back a candidate who supports sending more funding and weapons to Ukraine, while 28% said they would be more likely to support that candidate. 

Asked about those poll numbers, Pence said, “I’m here because it’s important that the American people understand the progress that we’ve made and how support for the Ukrainian military has been in our national interest. I truly do believe that now, more than ever, we need leaders in our country who will articulate the importance of American leadership in the world.”

In other campaign news … 

Applauding SCOTUS: Republican presidential candidates cheered the Supreme Court’s Thursday ruling on affirmative action, per the New York Times. 

Republican worries: NBC News’ Peter Nicholas and Katherine Doyle check in with some of the Republicans who endorsed Biden in 2020, and they find that some are “disillusioned with Biden and mulling whether to endorse him or latch onto someone else.”

Taking on Trump: Americans for Prosperity Action, the group founded by conservatives Charles and David Koch, has raised more than $70 million, per the New York Times, as it gears up to take on Trump in the GOP primary.  

States of play: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis only has a few congressional endorsements, and his campaign has been focused on capturing endorsements from state lawmakers as part of a deliberate strategy to build his grassroots support, the Miami Herald reports. 

Ron vs. DOJ: The Justice Department is taking aim at a law DeSantis signed last month that bars some Chinese citizens from buying property in Florida, calling the law unconstitutional in a recent court filing, per NBC News’ Michael Mitsanas.

Impeach? NBC News’ Greg Hyatt reports that former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley agreed with Fox News host Greg Gutfeld about the idea of the House starting impeachment proceedings against President Biden over his son’s business dealings, telling the host “they absolutely should,” and calling on the media to hold the president accountable. 

 I’m on fire: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie criticized DeSantis for brushing aside a question about the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, saying he gave “one of the most ridiculous answers I’ve heard in this race so far.”

Hail to the victor: Time Magazine reports that a handful of Republicans, including New York Stock Exchange Vice Chair John Tuttle and former Rep. Peter Meijer, are seriously considering jumping into the Michigan Senate race