On a rare evening when he took top billing over his boss, Vice President Pence spotlighted President Trump’s accomplishments over the past four years and made the case for another term in the White House as he delivered his nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.
But the vice president also painted a dark picture Wednesday of what the nation would look like if Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins November’s general election, warning that “you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”
Pence said Biden "didn't say one word" last week at the Democratic National Convention about the violence in American cities and then declared: “We will have law and order on the streets of this country."
The Trump re-election campaign previewed that the vice president would deliver an address with an "optimistic tone,” but Pence spent parts of his speech taking aim at the Democratic challenger and his party.
Hammering home a theme the Trump campaign’s been voicing all summer, the vice president charged that “Joe Biden would be nothing more than a trojan horse for a radical left” and he emphasized that “the choice in this election has never been clearer and the stakes have never been higher.”
Pence warned that “our economic recovery is on the ballot, law and order is on the ballot. But so are things far more fundamental and foundational to our country.”
"President Trump set our nation on a path to freedom and opportunity from the very first day of this administration," Pence said. "But Joe Biden would set America on a path of socialism and decline. But we’re not going to let it happen."
And looking back to last week's Democratic convention, Pence argued that "Democrats spent four days attacking America."
Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield, reacting to Pence's speech, charged that the vice president "offered up debunked scare tactics and gaslighting in an attempt to further divide us."
As the vice president delivered his address, unrest continued to rock Kenosha, Wisconsin following the police shooting of a Black man. The latest protests come amid a summer of demonstrations over police brutality against minorities and racial injustice.
Pence emphasized that “President Trump and I know the men and women that put on the uniform of law enforcement are the best of us. They put their lives on the line every day.”
And he said that “the American people know we don't have to choose between supporting law enforcement, and standing with African-American neighbors to improve the quality of life in our cities and towns.”
Slamming Biden, Pence charged that the former vice president “says America is systemically racist. And that law enforcement in America has a quote, "implicit bias" against minorities.”
Pence spotlighted that when Biden was asked “whether he'd support cutting funding to law enforcement, and he replied, ‘Yes, absolutely.’" And he stressed that “under President Trump, we will stand with those who stand on the Thin Blue Line, and we're not going to defund the police--not now, not ever.”
Biden’s “yes, absolutely” comments – which have also been showcased in Trump campaign ads – appear to be taken out of context. Biden’s response came after he was asked about calls by some protestors to redirect some police funding to social services in order to reduce fatal police encounters. And Biden has repeatedly made clear this summer that “I don’t support defunding the police.”
The emphasis by Pence, the president, and his campaign, on law and order comes as Trump tries to win back suburban voters who supported him in 2016 but fled the GOP in the 2018 midterm elections.
According to a Fox News national poll conducted earlier this month, Biden leads the president among registered voters in the suburbs by 16 percentage points.
And the survey indicates registered voters nationwide by a 48%-42% margin trust Biden over Trump to do a better job handling policing and criminal justice.
On a convention night themed “land of heroes,” the vice president appropriately enough delivered his address from Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Md. The historic landmark was the site of a War of 1812 battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner." In attendance, the president, first lady Melania Trump, second lady Karen Pence, Medal of Honor recipients, veterans from various wars, and first responders.
Spotlighting the administration’s accomplishments, Pence touted that “despite unrelenting opposition and obstruction from the Swamp in Washington, we built the greatest economy in the world. We made America great again!”
And he shared a portrait of the president that most Americans never see, sharing that “I've worked closely with our president. I've seen him when the cameras are off. Americans see President Trump in lots of different ways, but there's no doubt how President Trump sees America. He sees America for what it is...a Nation that has done more good in this world than any other...a Nation that deserves far more gratitude than grievance.”
And he argued that “every day, President Trump has been fighting to protect the promise of America. Every day, our President has been fighting to expand the reach of the American Dream. And on every day, President Donald Trump has been fighting for you.”
Looking to November’s general election, Pence urged voters to “ask yourself: Who do you trust to rebuild this economy? A career politician who presided over the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression? Or a proven leader who created the greatest economy in the world?”
"We will make America great again -- again," Pence said.
Pointing to Pence’s role leading the White House coronavirus task force, Pelosi argued that “there's nothing for him to be proud of in terms of his role in fighting this virus. In fact there's evidence to support the fact that he was very slow on the draw, pulled his punch when he should have been leading with it. And he's part of the indictment on the coronavirus.”
Harris, in a fundraising email to supporters, spotlighted that “American families are reeling from the worst public health crisis in a century, and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Trump and Pence have responded with incompetence.”
She also tweeted: "Let’s be clear where Trump and Pence got us: millions out of work, students across our nation who cannot go back to school, and 180,000 lives cut short by coronavirus."
Biden and his campaign have repeatedly slammed the President, claiming that he initially downplayed the severity of the pandemic and then that he and his administration botched the federal government’s response to the outbreak.
In his speech, Pence pushed back, calling Trump’s efforts “the greatest national mobilization since World War II…. We built hospitals, we surged military medical personnel and enacted an economic rescue package that saved 50 million American jobs.”
And speaking a night after the first lady gave sympathetic remarks to those suffering amid the coronavirus, the vice president stressed that “tonight, our hearts are with all the families who have lost loved ones. We mourn with those who mourn, and we grieve with those who grieve. And this night I know millions of Americans will pause and pray for God’s comfort to each of you.”
Pence also predicted that “we’re on track to have the world’s first safe, effective coronavirus vaccine by the end of this year.”
But following the vice preisdent's address, the Biden campaign's Bedingfield argued that Pence's speech contained "no real discussion of the crushing financial hardship countless families are facing as a result, and no plan to get us out of the ditch that Donald Trump has driven us into."
For Pence, reelection in November could set him up as a leading contender for what will likely be a free-wheeling 2024 Republican presidential nomination race as the party moves into a post-Trump world. But a veteran Republican strategist, who asked for anonymity to speak more freely, highlighted that talk of the next White House race, “I don’t think enters the vice president’s mind right now.”
The strategist said that Pence and his team appear to be “remarkably focused on 2020 and are not letting 2024 conversations creep into anything.”
The vice president wasn’t the only Pence in the spotlight. Second lady Karen Pence also spoke earlier in the evening. She noted that as “Second Lady of the United States for the past 3 and a half years, I have had the honor of meeting many heroes across this great country. The Pences are a military family. Our son, Michael, serves in the US Marines, and our son in law, Henry, serves in the US Navy. And one of my key initiatives is to elevate and encourage military spouses.”
And she spotlighted that “President Trump and Vice President Pence have been supporting our United States Armed Forces, including our military families, on a significant scale.
The president and the first lady joined the Pence and the second lady on the podium following the vice president's address.
Pence’s speech capped the third night of the convention. On Thursday’s night’s final session, Trump gets his turn to make his case.