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On the campaign trail, Mike Pence faces skepticism over his Jan. 6 break with Trump

A voter in Iowa asked the former vice president Wednesday whether he ever has second thoughts about certifying Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election.
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SIOUX CITY, Iowa — A voter confronted former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday about his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, accusing him of having unfairly handed over the election to Joe Biden. 

“Do you ever second-guess yourself? That was a constitutional right that you had to send those votes back to the states,” the woman said as Pence was taking questions at a crowded Pizza Ranch restaurant here. She said Pence “changed history” by refusing to send the 2020 election results back to the states for a recount. 

Pence certified the election results despite pressure from President Donald Trump and threats from his supporters. He refused to buy into Trump’s conspiracy theories that Biden and the Democratic Party stole the election. 

Pence has leaned into his refusal to bend to what Trump wanted that day, setting it up as a key point of contrast. He launched his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination last month with criticisms of his former boss, saying Trump abandoned his conservative principles and his allegiance to the Constitution. 

While Pence is able to carve out a distinctive lane for himself with that approach, he also risks alienating a sizable part of the GOP base that is still loyal to Trump. 

Pence said Wednesday that certifying the election was “an issue that continues to be misunderstood,” saying the Constitution “affords no authority for the vice president or anyone else to reject votes or return votes to the states.” 

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but that’s actually what the Constitution says,” Pence told the woman at the Pizza Ranch. “No vice president in American history ever asserted the authority that you have been convinced that I had. But I want to tell you, with all due respect … President Trump was wrong about my authority that day, and he’s still wrong.” 

Afterward, Pence told NBC News that he “welcomed the opportunity” to talk about why Trump’s messaging surrounding the certification of the election is inaccurate. 

“Should I have the great privilege of being president of the United States, they’ll also always be able to count on me keeping my oath to the Constitution,” he said. 

Pence continues to lag significantly in polling in the race, with the most recent NBC News poll showing Trump with a commanding lead. He was in Sioux City on Wednesday as part of a three-day stretch through Iowa that began with a Fourth of July parade in Urbandale. At all three of his events Wednesday, he was joined by Republican Rep. Randy Feenstra, who represents the western part of the state. 

Pence kicked off his presidential campaign in Iowa, whose caucuses go first in the GOP presidential primary calendar. The state’s active conservative evangelical community is a natural focus for Pence, who was the governor of and a congressman from nearby Indiana and has staked out conservative positions on social issues throughout his career.