Pence and GOP candidates focus on turning out conservative base

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence spoke in Winston-Salem on Aug. 30.

Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence focuses on mobilizing the conservative base during Winston-Salem appearance, while smoothing over party tensions.

Donald Trump’s running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, aimed his strongest appeal during a recent visit at mobilizing the Republican base to get out the vote on Election Day, suggesting the campaign is already shifting its focus away from trying to win over uncommitted voters.

“I hope you really came to get equipped to talk to your neighbors and friends,” Pence told a boisterous crowd of about 450 people at the Millennium Center in Winston-Salem on Aug. 30. “Men and women, we’ve got 70 days — 70 days to turn this country around. And it’s gonna take each and every one of you in this room to do it.”

Pence pledged that campaign will “be back again and again” to visit a state that is considered crucial to Trump’s prospects for winning the White House during a speech that lasted about 30 minutes.

“Make no mistake about it: North Carolina will loom large in the destiny of the nation,” Pence said. “The direction America will choose may well be made in the decision that you and your neighbors make here in North Carolina.”

Pence urged those in the audience to ask family members and friends if they want a president who commands the respect of the world and will destroy ISIS, will “stand by our law enforcement community without apology,” will “end the flood of illegal immigration” and will “upend the status quo” in Washington, adding, “Then you say to them, ‘If you want all that, then you have just one choice.’”

Pence’s remarks centered on his running mate’s central themes — law and order, negotiations with Iran and bad trade deals — while excoriating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for her supposed untrustworthiness, and casting Donald Trump as a Reaganesque figure capable of leading the United States back to prosperity.

The vice presidential nominee left it to Lida Hayes Calvert, a member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board, to make the case to potential cross-over voters, particularly people who are frustrated by lack of economic opportunity.

“I am painfully, painfully aware that we need a change,” she said. “We’ve struggled with low wages, low jobs, food insecurity. A majority of our jobs have gone south. You know that and I know that. There are probably some right here in this venue that have lost their jobs because of these jobs going south. Our infrastructure is in great need of repair. You know that and I know that.”

Another warm-up speaker — Buck Newton, the Republican nominee for attorney general — dug in with a core conservative message, focusing more on mobilizing the base than reaching out to independent voters. A sitting state lawmaker, Newton’s speech alluded to HB 2 — one of a number of unpopular state laws that have been curtailed or struck down by the federal courts.

“You need an attorney general who will fight to enforce the laws of this state, and stand up for the balance of power between the state of North Carolina and our broken federal government,” Newton said. “We have a big, bloated, broken, out-of-control federal government, and every single day our values are under attack — our values as North Carolinians, our values as Americans — and it’s time that we get up and we let the country know how we feel and that we want change in this country.”

Like Pence, Newton urged supporters to tell their friends and family to vote.

More of a team player than his maverick running mate, Pence paid close attention in his speech to acknowledging fellow Republicans on the ticket in North Carolina. When Pence accompanied Trump to Winston-Salem in late July, the presidential candidate made no mention of Gov. Pat McCrory or other down-ticket Republican candidates, while talking down the local economy — to the detriment of a sitting governor seeking reelection, who likes to talk about a “Carolina comeback.”

“I just saw here — and I’m not gonna go over the stats of Winston-Salem because you know what’s happening, right?” Trump said at the time. “You know, your jobs are being taken away. Your jobs are being taken and going to Mexico and lots of other places.”

During his remarks on Aug. 30, the more tactful Pence said, “I know you’ve been blessed in North Carolina with some strong, common-sense leadership,” before citing anemic numbers in a recent national quarterly report as a set-up for a promise that Trump would “set loose the boundless energy of the American economy” and “do it faster than you can possibly imagine.”

At the outset of his speech, Pence exulted, “Now this movement is united, this party is united, and we’re gonna make Donald Trump the next president of the United States.”

As the chants of “Trump, Trump, Trump,” died down, the vice presidential candidate added, “And when we do that I know Donald Trump and I want to make sure that you return Gov. Pat McCrory and Sen. Richard Burr to represent North Carolina.”