Pence stands firm in a sea of de­fec­tions

VP can­di­date re­as­sures Trump’s fol­low­ers

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By Noah Bier­man

FLETCHER, N.C. — The crowd be­neath the rafters at the agri­cul­tural cen­ter was ea­ger to purge its frus­tra­tion, chant­ing “Lock her up!” in ref­er­ence to Hil­lary Clin­ton, more than 20 min­utes be­fore In­di­ana Gov. Mike Pence took the stage.

Many were up­set, and wor­ried, that Don­ald Trump had suf­fered one of his rock­i­est stretches — Repub­li­cans flee­ing his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign just as it reaches its most cru­cial phase.

That left Pence, Trump’s run­ning mate, to ex­pand his role as Trump’s chief val­ida­tor in the con­ser­va­tive movement, with a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on evan­gel­i­cals.

The re­served Mid­west­erner, whose pro­file has been dwarfed by Trump’s re­al­ity tele­vi­sion per­sona, is now the most prom­i­nent es­tab­lish­ment con­ser­va­tive speak­ing on Trump’s be­half, with all the risk and re­ward that en­tails.

Pence, who ex­pressed his own mis­giv­ings over the 2005 video in which Trump boasted that a “star” like him was free to as­sault women, re­claimed his larger role with rel­ish, once he de­cided that he would stick with Trump.

He spoke about his faith andthe powerof­for­give­ness. He cred­ited Trump with apol­o­giz­ing, call­ing him a “big man.”

Pence had said he was of­fended by Trump’s words and ac­tions, and some had spec­u­lated he might leave the ticket. In­stead, he emerged Mon­day with fullthroated sup­port.

He joins Trump on a shrink­ing is­land.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, the high­est-rank­ing elected Repub­li­can, de­clared he GOP vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mike Pence cam­paigns at a rally Tues­day in Newton, Iowa. would no longer de­fend Trump, and other Repub­li­can lead­ers with­drew their en­dorse­ments after the video emerged.

Trump fired back Tues­day, call­ing Ryan “weak and in­ef­fec­tive” and tweet­ing that “it is hard to do well when Paul Ryan and oth­ers give zero sup­port!”

That co­in­cided with a se­ries of tweets in which Trump spoke out against Repub­li­can de­fec­tors and de­clared the “shack­les have been taken off me and I can now fight for Amer­ica the way I want to.”

The ag­gres­sion in­ten­si­fied con­cerns among Repub­li­cans that Trump would stoke an even larger bat­tle within the party in the fi­nal weeks of the elec­tion and its af­ter­math.

If Pence has any re­grets about stick­ing with Trump, he has swal­lowed them. What­ever the cal­cu­la­tions — po­lit­i­cal, per­sonal or philo­soph­i­cal — Pence has de­cided to tie his po­lit­i­cal fate with Trump’s.

As he crossed from North Carolina’s ur­ban cen­ter in Char­lotte to its ru­ral edge by the Great Smoky Moun­tains, Pence showed his abil­ity to sell Trump on his terms, smooth­ing Trump’s un­ortho­dox and some­times pro­fane pop­ulism to fit Pence’s more es­tab­lish­ment brand of con­ser­vatism.

“The stakes of this elec­tion go far beyond what­ever the media’s fo­cused on in any given day,” Pence said in Fletcher, fur­ther in­oc­u­lat­ing Trumpfromthe­bad­new­she has been suf­fer­ing.

Pence em­pha­sized Trump’s tax cuts and op­po­si­tion to en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions and Oba­macare that have won ap­proval from tra­di­tional con­ser­va­tives, spoke lit­tle about im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies that pro­pelled Trump to the nom­i­na­tion and promised Trump would usher in trade deals that are “good for Amer­i­can work­ers,” avoid­ing Trump’s sharper de­scrip­tions of other coun­tries rip­ping off Amer­i­cans.

In be­tween, he de­liv­ered the type of red-meat at­tacks for which run­ning mates are known: on Clin­ton’s han­dling of for­eign pol­icy in Syria, Libya and Iran; her pri­vate email server; and her paid speeches to Wall Street ex­ec­u­tives in which she said successful politi­cians need to hold both a pub­lic and a

CHAR­LIE NEIBERGALL/AP

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