A little over a week after his formal nomination as Donald Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence took the stage Thursday evening in Novi, Michigan, following an earlier town hall event in Grand Rapids. The rally was held at the Suburban Collection Showcase, hosting close to 1,000 supporters sporting Trump merchandise and waving the campaign’s staple “Make America Great Again” signs.
Michigan has been viewed as a critical state for the Republicans in November, as Trump may be able to build on support from white working class and union voters to turn a traditionally blue state red. A recent poll sponsored by CBS and YouGov showed Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton holds a three-point lead in the state, even though Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney by almost 10 points in 2012.
As one of his first stops after accepting Trump’s vice-presidential slot, Pence used a majority of his speech to discuss Trump and his character.
“I joined this campaign in a heartbeat because our party has nominated a man who never quits; a man who never backs down; a fighter; a builder,” Pence said. “Until now, he’s had to do it almost all by himself against all odds, but as of last week, this party is united, this movement is united, and I know we will elect Donald Trump.”
The room immediately boomed with chants of both “USA” and “Lock her up.” Another outbreak of booing followed after Pence mocked President Barack Obama’s speech from the night before at the Democratic National Convention.
“Last night I didn’t get to see the president’s speech, but I heard about it,” Pence said, smirking while the crowd roared with laughter.
“You didn’t miss much!” one woman yelled back.
He then switched gears to discuss his past performance as the governor of Indiana. Pence attributed Indiana’s 3 percent drop in unemployment and its balanced budget to his own leadership.
The governor also spoke passionately about terrorism and national security with enthusiasm and energy sparked by the recent attacks and instabilities across the world. He named a few: an ISIS attack in Nice, France; the failed coup attempt in Turkey; and the murder of a Catholic priest in a French church.
Pence argued that only a Republican foreign policy platform could keep Americans safe.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: history teaches that weakness arouses evil,” Pence said, referring to Clinton and Obama’s foreign policy decisions.
Michigan State University student Chad Krause, who attended the rally, said he agrees with Pence and believes a Trump presidency would make the country safer.
“I am voting for Trump because my dad’s an officer and he is getting ISIS threats,” Krause said.
Along with terrorism, the governor took a moment to give cheers and thanks to the police officers serving the country. He followed with the promise that Trump will put the safety of the country first, then giving a personal anecdote from the other day when they were both boarding Trump’s plane.
“When we got near the plane there were probably 30 or 40 police officers,” Pence said. “Before he got in that plane he shook every hand. He posed for every picture. As the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, President Donald Trump will support our law enforcement.”
Pence’s speech was short but energetic, and he stayed to sign autographs, attracting many supporters after leaving the audience with a confident closing statement.
“We have but one choice,” he declared. “That man is ready. This team is ready. Our party is ready. This movement is ready. And together, we will elect Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States of America.”