Attempting to counter the perception that Hillary Clinton has already clinched the presidential election, Donald Trump’s running-mate made a campaign stop in Greensboro tonight to reassure supporters that the Republican nominee still has a shot.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence took the stage of West Wing B1 Room with his wife Karen to the blaring strains of Bad Company’s “All Right Now” after receiving a warm introduction from Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes, declaring, “This race is on!”
Cutting against conventional wisdom that Trump needs to gain traction with political independents to carry battleground states like North Carolina, Pence argued that the more important task for the campaign is to consolidate support among Republican voters. The vice-presidential candidate said the Trump campaign has already won over independents who are tired of the status quo, along with “Southern Democrats” unsettled by “the liberal policies flowing out of Washington DC and the bad trade deals that have cost American jobs.”
In a direct appeal to supporters in North Carolina, Pence said, “Now it’s time to reach out to all of our Republican and conservative friends and say with one voice: ‘It’s time to come home. It’s time to come together to ensure that Hillary Clinton is never elected president of the United States.’”
Borrowing from Ronald Reagan’s 1964 speech on behalf of Republican nominee Barry Goldwater, Pence told supporters that this election is about a choice between “up and down” rather than right and left.
“This is a choice of whether we’re going to continue to go down the hill to a weaker America at home and abroad to more military cuts, more emboldened adversaries and competitors in the world, a weaker and stifled American economy walking further from our most cherished Constitutional ideals,” Pence said, “or whether we are going to stop in North Carolina, plant our feet, turn around and march back up the hill to a stronger America at home and abroad, a more prosperous America and an America that cherishes our highest ideals.”
Touching on one of the campaign’s central themes — support for law enforcement — Pence indirectly referenced the police-involved death of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte last month.
“You know, I don’t need to tell you all here in North Carolina this has been a very challenging time for men and women who wear the uniform of law enforcement on the thin blue line,” Pence said. “It seems like when a tragedy happens, when law enforcement in essentially fulfilling their duties to protect us results in the loss of human life there are too many in the American left and in the national media who are prepared to demean law enforcement broadly and paint with a broad brush before the facts are known.”
Pence received some of his most enthusiastic applause after pledging the support of a Trump administration to law enforcement, followed quickly by promises to deport criminal aliens and stop the flow of refugees from Syria.
“A President Donald Trump will stand by the men and women of law enforcement across this country, and will provide the resources and the training they need to protect our families, and go home safely to theirs,” Pence said. “And we will restore law and order to every city and every community in this land.
“Hillary Clinton wants open borders,” he continued. “Donald Trump will end illegal immigration and remove criminal aliens from this country. Hillary Clinton wants to increase the Syrian refugee program by 550 percent, despite the fact that our own Homeland Security says that we cannot know for certain who the people are that are coming into our country. Donald Trump will immediately suspend immigration from countries and territories compromised by terrorism.”
Pence and other speakers at the rally downplayed recent state polling that shows Trump falling behind in key battleground states, and Sheriff BJ Barnes compared the Republican nominee to General Anthony McCauliffe, who led the 101st Airborne Division’s defense of Bastogne, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.
“He did not surrender, he did not give up, the 101st did not give up,” Barnes said. “They did not stop. Reinforcements came, and they won the day and won the battle. Now, that’s the kind of general that I want. That’s the kind of president that I want — the kind of president that’s gonna make America great again, who’s not gonna apologize to anyone.”
US Rep. Mark Meadows and state Rep. Kyle Hall also spoke at the rally.
Pence told supporters not to heed media reports that the race is all but over, reminding them that in North Carolina polling shows that the two candidates are statistically tied.
“The truth of the matter is that after this avalanche — over a year of attacks in the media coming against my running-mate, the truth of the matter is that the momentum continues to build in this election because of one reason, and one reason only,” Pence said. “And that is the American people are talking to each other. The American people are talking to their neighbors at worship and at work, over backyard fences, and they’re looking ’em in the eye, and saying, ‘It doesn’t have to be like this. We can be strong again. We can be prosperous again. We can stand on our Constitution again.’”
Pence closed by imploring supporters to take advantage of early voting before adding, “If you do, like Karen and I do from time to time — if you bow the head and bend the knee, it’d be a good time to do it in the next 14 days.”
The candidate clarified that he wasn’t talking about praying for one particular electoral outcome over another.
“Let’s pray for our country,” he said. “We do so with confidence because I believe with all my heart what’s been true for millennia is still true today — that if His people who are called by His name will humble themselves and pray, He’ll do like He’s always done in much more challenging times in this great nation. He’ll hear from heaven and He’ll heal our land, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”