WESTFIELD – With Donald Trump to soon choose his presidential running mate on the GOP ticket, possible pick Indiana Gov. Mike Pence invoked the memory of a beloved conservative Republican to boost support for the party’s presumptive nominee.
“Donald Trump understands the hopes and frustrations of the people of America like no one since Ronald Reagan,” Columbus native Pence said Tuesday, referring to the late two-term president.
Pence, considered one of the leading VP candidates, spoke with emotion and passion for about 5 1/2 minutes Tuesday evening at the beginning of a rally for Trump at the Grand Park Events Center in the northern Indianapolis suburb of Westfield.
“Donald Trump gets it. Donald Trump hears the voice of the American people. He’s worked on Wall Street but he’s never turned his back on Main Street,” Pence said.
The governor said Indiana knows about strong Republican leadership, citing more Hoosiers at work than ever before in the state’s 200-year history.
“That is the type of no-nonsense leadership Donald J. Trump will bring to the White House this November,” Pence said.
The country is ready to put someone who is fighter, builder and patriot in the White House, Pence said. He told those in attendance that they could make American great again by electing a great American such as Trump. And they needed to do that for an important reason, the governor said.
“Because Hillary Clinton must never become president of the United States of America,” Pence said. “I think it would be extremely careless to elect Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States.”
As Pence finished, Trump joined him on stage and the two locked hands and raised them high.
“How is your governor doing? Good, huh?” Trump said of Pence to the crowd.
“Indiana was the state that put me over the top. Thank you, folks,” he added.
Trump addressed the crowd for about 50 minutes, covering a range of topics, such as:
• The fatal shooting of five Dallas police officers.
• The need for greater safety in the country. “I am the law-and-order candidate,” Trump said.
• Obamacare. “We’re going to get rid of Obamacare,” he said.
• The Second Amendment. “It’s under siege,” Trump said.
• The wall he wants to build along the Mexican border to keep out illegal immigrants. “People are going to come into our country, but they’re going to come in legally,” he said.
Trump also slammed Clinton and the media.
“Thirty-three thousand missing emails and they let her go. Lies all over the place and they let her go,” Trump said.
Toward the end of his speech, Trump said of Pence: “I don’t know if he’s going to be your governor or vice president. Who the hell knows.”
Thousands of Trump supporters started filing into the Grand Park facility – large enough to accommodate several football practices at once — at about 4:30 p.m., when the gates opened for the rally – about four hours before Trump and Pence arrived. Some ran to the front to get a spot close to the podium.
The crowd ranged in age from elementary school-aged children with their parents to young professionals to senior citizens. Many wore red Trump “Make America Great Again” ball caps, while others sported Trump-themed T-shirts. A few Trump supporters also wore buttons or T-shirts saying “Hillary for Prison,” a shot at presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Clinton.
Some donned Pence campaign T-shirts, showing support for Indiana’s elected leader.
Pence is considered a vice presidential candidate along with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Sen. Jess Sessions of Alabama.
Christie spoke at a Trump rally on Monday in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Tuesday it was Pence’s turn to stump for Trump in what could have been viewed as an audition for the VP role.
An announcement of a running mate is expected soon because the Republican National Convention opens Monday in Cleveland.
Pence, who previously met with Trump in New Jersey on July 2, is considered by political analysts to be a balancing force with his conservative beliefs and background in Washington. He served 12 years as a congressman from Indiana, rising to the GOP’s third-ranking position in the U.S. House of Representatives as chairman of the House Republican Conference, a role in which he was tasked with keeping GOP members on-message.
The rally followed a 5:30 p.m. private fundraising dinner at the Columbia Club in downtown Indianapolis, where Pence hosted Trump. The fundraiser requested contributions of $2,700 a person to $250,000 per couple.
Pence had endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz before the Indiana primary election, but has backed Trump since his victory in the Hoosier state, which caused Cruz to end his campaign.
Pence bypassed a run for president four years ago when he instead sought to succeed Mitch Daniels as governor of Indiana. Pence won a close race against Democrat John Gregg, with whom he is in a tight race with again.
“Donald Trump gets it. Donald Trump hears the voice of the American people. He’s worked on Wall Street but he’s never turned his back on Main Street.”
— Indiana Gov. Mike Pence at Trump rally