Sounding like a potential presidential candidate, former Vice President Mike Pence contended Monday that the nation’s economic woes were almost entirely the result of Democratic President Joe Biden’s policies, and told an audience at the University Club of Chicago that without a turnaround, Americans will “change leadership very soon.”

Speaking for nearly 40 minutes before a few hundred people in an ornate hall, Pence touted the economic successes of the “Trump-Pence administration,” but made no direct reference to former President Donald Trump.

Pence has become a focal point of a House select committee’s investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol breach as the panel examines whether Trump knew his push for his vice president to stop the Electoral College vote count of states giving Biden the presidency was not legal. Pence refused to.

While in Chicago, Pence taped an interview with Foxnews.com in which he said he would not allow Democrats to use Jan. 6 “to distract attention from their failed agenda or to demean the intentions of 74 million Americans who rallied behind our cause.”

Pence said that “by God’s grace,” he knows he did his “duty that day, under the Constitution.”

Pence said a decision to make a White House bid would not be dependent on whether Trump runs again. “We’ll go where we’re called, and as I said, we won’t let anybody make that decision for us,” he said.

At the University Club, Pence made a lone reference to “a tragic day at our nation’s capitol” as part of a litany of difficult times the country has faced since the pandemic.

Pence, 63, did not discuss any ambitions for the White House. But the former vice president and former governor of Indiana lashed out at the policies of Biden and the “radical left extremists” in the Democratic Party and their “agenda of more taxes, more regulation, less American energy and open borders.”

“The truth is, the majority of Americans know that President Biden’s economic policies have failed utterly and completely and it is time for a change of direction for America,” Pence said. “The Biden administration squandered American prosperity faster than any other administration in the history of our country.”

“President Biden has offered plenty of excuses but few solutions,” he said.

Pence said Biden’s blame of skyrocketing gas prices on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “unconscionable invasion” of Ukraine was misplaced.

“Gas prices are rising because of Joe Biden’s war on energy and it has to stop and stop today,” he said. “The runaway inflation is the predictable result of runaway spending. You cannot spend your way out of a problem that’s caused by overspending.”

Pence offered up a traditional menu of conservative agenda items as an alternative, including opening up more domestic energy resources and action to “liberate the American people from oppressive taxation, tyrannical bureaucracy and the overregulation of the economy.”

“We have an opportunity to see without a filter the agenda of the American left, writ large, put into practice and we see a weakened America at home and abroad,” the former vice president said. “Unless this administration changes course and their allies in Congress change course dramatically, the American people are going to change leadership and change leadership very soon.”

Pence sprinkled his speech with quotations from the Bible as he also promoted family and faith as a bedrock for achieving “the American dream.”

“Strong families make for strong communities and strong communities make for a strong America. We have to have an economy that works for American families,” he said. “I believe the highest priority must be to preserve and strengthen families. It’s foundational for society today. At its very core, it’s family that’s made this country great.”

Pence also took a poke at Illinois, saying residents have seen the effects of high taxes and excessive business regulation.

“I have to tell you, as your neighbor to the east, after I was governor, I loved competing with Illinois for jobs,” he said.

“It broke my heart to hear Caterpillar and Boeing were moving out of Illinois. They’re moving to low-tax states,” he said of recent corporate departures from the Chicago area.

“Truth is, though, the policies of the Biden administration aren’t going to cause jobs to move from your state to another state. They’re going to cause jobs to move from the United States to places like China.”

Later, Pence amped up his partisan rhetoric in a speech before a gathering of the party faithful at the Lincoln Day fundraising dinner of the Peoria and Tazewell County GOP organizations.

In a ballroom at the Peoria Civic Center, he implored the crowd to elect a Republican governor and reverse Illinois Democrats’ near 20-year control of the state House and Senate. Republicans last controlled Illinois government for two years following the 1994 GOP wave year election.

“The Democrats have moved so fast, sometimes I think the left hand doesn’t know what the far left hand is doing,” he said to laughter.

Once again Pence did not make a direct reference to Trump, but he touted being part of an administration that brought a conservative majority to the U.S. Supreme Court with the appointments of Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

With the court appearing to be poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, Pence said, “I couldn’t be more proud to have served in the most pro-life administration in American history.”

Pence also sought to rally the crowd to continue fighting for conservative Republican values.

“You’re not willing to stand on the sidelines and watch. You are stepping forward and with your help and God’s help, we’re going to take America back,” Pence said.

“So buckle up because common sense is making a great comeback,” he said. “And the Republican Party is leading the way.”

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