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Republican presidential candidate, former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Pray Vote Stand Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel on September 15, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images

Former Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday dumped on Donald Trump’s plan to slap a universal 10% tariff on imported goods if he is reelected in 2024, slamming the idea as a “middle-class tax increase.”

An across-the-board tariff like the one Trump has proposed would worsen inflation and “reward adversaries like China,” Pence’s GOP presidential campaign said in an unusually sharp one-page memo.

The memo takes direct aim at Trump, Pence’s former boss and the current front-runner in the Republican presidential primary, while attempting to draw a line between Trump’s current agenda and the one enacted when they both occupied the White House.

“When it comes to leadership in the world, we stood strong with our allies and stood up to our enemies,” Pence said in a statement accompanying the memo.

“He and his imitators in this race are backing away from American leadership,” Pence said.

The campaign document cited an analysis by the nonprofit Tax Foundation that found Trump’s proposal would raise taxes on American consumers by more than $300 billion a year and eliminate more than 500,000 full-time jobs.

The shot at Trump may offer a preview of how Pence and his campaign will approach the second primary debate, which is set for Wednesday at the Reagan presidential library in California.

Trump skipped the first debate last month, but he nevertheless stole much of the evening’s attention. This time around the former president is planning to counterprogram the debate by traveling to Detroit and delivering a speech to current and former union workers.

Trump had called for a “ring around the collar” as he floated a 10% tariff during an interview last month with Fox Business’ Larry Kudlow, his former White House economic advisor.

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“It’s a massive amount of money,” Trump said. “It’s not going to stop business because it’s not that much,” he claimed, “but it’s enough that we really make a lot of money.”

But Pence’s campaign said that by “haphazardly” raising the cost of all imports, the tariff plan would raise prices that would disproportionately hurt poor and middle-class Americans the hardest.

The plan is also “flawed foreign policy that would punish our allies and reward adversaries like China” by reducing the impact of existing tariffs on Beijing, the campaign said.

“Trump’s plan would indiscriminately weaken our allies around the world with random economic sanctions while isolating our enemies,” the memo said.

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