IOWA CITY, Iowa — Former Vice President Mike Pence sidestepped a question Monday about his presidential ambitions but predicted a “great conservative comeback” that will lead Republican majorities up and down the ticket in the 2022 midterm elections.

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Rather than speculate about who the GOP nominee for president will be, Pence told WHO Radio that conservatives need to spend their energy to win control of Congress first, “and we’ll let the future take care of itself.”

Pence was in the state to speak at the University of Iowa about “life and liberty, talking about the values and ideals that have made this country great. And really challenging this rising generation to be a freedom generation.”

His lecture was sponsored by the Young America’s Foundation and its UI chapter. YAF, founded in 1960, has several high school and college chapters that advocate for conservative ideas through activism and speaker events.

Pence was in Iowa earlier this year for a fundraiser for Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra, and spoke at the Family Leader summit.

That all feeds into speculation that he’ll be a candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2024. He didn’t rule out that possibility, but sad his focus in on the 2022 elections. Pence predicted “we're on the verge of a great conservative comeback all across this country.”

“I've been telling friends across Iowa all about that today and I'm absolutely convinced that in 2022 we're going to win back to Congress, we're going to win statehouses around the country and come 2024 we're going to win back America,” Pence said.

Not everyone at the UI shared his opinion. At a pre-lecture demonstration in Hubbard Park outside the Iowa Memorial Union, students protested his connections to former President Donald Trump as well as his social and economic views.

“I don’t like Pence because hate doesn’t belong on our campus,” said senior Kyle Kopf, a philosophy and political science major, who was holding an “I don’t like Pence” sign. The former vice president “has blood on his hands because of his anti-LGBTQ agenda.”

Although it’s a long time until the 2024 caucus campaign, Kopf said his attitude likely will apply to other Republicans “but because Pence is speaking, we’re specifically protesting Mike Pence.”

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