Pence stands firm in a sea of defections
VP candidate reassures Trump’s followers
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