KISSIMMEE — Scattered boos greeted former Vice President Mike Pence in Central Florida as he stood behind a lectern to address a coalition of Christian and conservative voters.
Someone yelled, “Traitor!” as Pence began to speak. Security quickly cleared the room of the people who shouted him down.
The outburst occurred at the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference, a gathering of evangelicals and conservative activists taking place this weekend in Kissimmee. Pence was the final speaker of a morning lineup full of top Republicans, including U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
None of those other elected officials took heat from the packed convention room, full of hundreds of people who sat through hours of back-to-back speeches. Dozens walked out as Pence spoke.
Few Republicans have voted or governed more in line with the Faith & Freedom Coalition than Pence, himself a born-again Christian with a long record of pushing anti-abortion policies. But to many conservatives, the lasting image of Pence was of him presiding over the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election victory hours after a violent mob had breached the U.S. Capitol.
Before the attack, President Donald Trump had falsely insisted that Pence could intervene to stop the certification, and some rioters called for Pence to stop the count. Others said he should be hung as a traitor.
The reception for Pence in Central Florida demonstrates the difficult road ahead for Pence in repairing his standing among many of Trump’s most faithful supporters as he seeks to further his political ambitions. Pence is considered a contender to run for president in 2024 if Trump does not.
Following the interruption, Pence continued his remarks, laying out his case for what he and Trump accomplished during their four-year term, taking credit for the coronavirus vaccine and restoring religious freedom. He assailed the new Biden administration for not taking stronger action to defend Israel and its handling of immigration.
“When I was vice president, I visited the southern border,” Pence said. It was a reference to Vice President Kamala Harris, who has not taken a similar tour since taking office in January.
Many Republican voters remain caught up in the 2020 election, continuing to believe a false narrative that the election was stolen. Throughout the morning, Republican speakers urged the audience to get past November and start mobilizing for the midterms next year.
“There were some shenanigans in these elections. And we need to fix it for future elections,” Graham said. “But don’t you think it’s time to tell America what we will do for them in 2022?”