Election 2016

Pence makes play for staunch Wisconsin conservatives in Waukesha address

Republican Nominee Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence during the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Image By: Negassi Tesfamichael

In his first solo appearance since he became the official running mate of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence assured a crowd at the Waukesha County Expo Center Wednesday that Trump “gets it.”

What the untraditional nominee “gets,” Pence said, is the strong conservative principles that lay the framework for Wisconsin Republicans.

“I truly do believe that this builder, this patriot, this fighter is going to make America great again when we make Donald Trump our 45th president of the United States,” Pence told the cheering crowd.

In his speech, which ran the gamut of freedom of religion, abortion, revamping immigration policies and pushing back against “big government,” Pence hit the conservative jackpot for individuals who might have worried that Trump’s platform steered too far away from the party’s values.

The appeal to these particular voters is needed for the Trump-Pence ticket, after Wisconsin picked former presidential candidate Ted Cruz in the April primary—overwhelmingly so in Waukesha County, where votes for Cruz outnumbered Trump’s by almost 40 percent.

Pence’s Wednesday speech also followed Trump’s recent remark that Russia should attempt to find Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, a comment that drew immediate pushback across the nation.

But Pence did not address the issue, choosing instead to focus on assuring Trump’s conservative leadership and slamming Clinton and the Democrats for what he called “a stale agenda.”

Many of the night’s speakers, which included state party leaders like Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau and Gov. Scott Walker, blasted Clinton on everything from Benghazi to her email server, drawing boos and chants of “lock her up” from the crowd.

“I’m voting on my conscience in this election,” Walker said. “My conscience tells me I’m not going to let Hillary Clinton dominate the Supreme Court for the next twenty or thirty years with radical and uncontrolled justices.”

The next president’s eventual United States Supreme Court appointment to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s spot, who died in February, has been a major concern for both parties.

Pence argued that Trump must be the one to make Supreme Court appointments “for the sake of our Constitution, for the sake of the sanctity of life, for the sake of our Second Amendment and all of our God-given liberties.”

After giving firm assurances that Trump will lower taxes, protect national security, support law enforcement and uphold core values like freedom and independence, Pence capped his address by underlining his Christian faith and borrowing a line from the French diplomat and historian Alexis de Tocqueville.

Trump’s familiar “Make America Great Again” slogan swiftly followed Pence’s quote before he and the crowd recited a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance and called it a night.

Ginny Narschman, a Waukesha resident who attended Wednesday’s address after being in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, said she voted for Cruz in the April primaries but said she was “overwhelmed” at the convention when Trump’s children spoke about him.

“I felt there is more to this man than what we know, than things said at the debates and off-the-cuff things that none of us think that highly of that happened,” Narschman said. “But I’m telling you, I really respect what he’s done.”

Narschman said that when she was younger, conservative principles were upheld and there was not the “moral decline” that there is today. She said she was bothered by the fact that the Democrats seemingly did not come out strong against terrorism and criticized Clinton for being “followed by scandals.”

Nancy Winters and Barb Armstrong, who both voted for Trump in the primaries, said they attended the event to get to know Pence better.

“I think that Trump is the type of person that will get the best on his team,” Winters said. “He won’t just go ahead and do what he thinks is the right thing, he will find out the right way to go and the right way to do it, and get the best person for the job.”

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