WESTFIELD, Ind. — Gov. Mike Pence gave presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump a rip-roaring introduction at a campaign rally Tuesday, just days before Trump will decide whether to make Pence his vice presidential running mate.
Standing in front of a massive American flag, the first-term governor and former six-term congressman told some 1,500 Trump supporters gathered at Grand Park in north suburban Indianapolis that he wants Indiana to be the first state on Election Night to go red for Trump.
“After seven-and-a-half years of the failed policies of Barack Obama that have weakened America’s place in the world and stifled our nation’s economy, we’re ready for a change in this state, we’re ready for a fighter, a builder and a patriot in the Oval Office,” Pence said.
“We’re ready for Donald Trump to be our next president!”
Pence said no candidate in his lifetime, save Republican Ronald Reagan, understands the hopes and frustrations of the American people better than Trump.
“Donald Trump gets it. Donald Trump hears the voice of the American people,” Pence said. “He’s been successful on Wall Street, but he’s never turned his back on Main Street.”
Sliding into the traditional “attack dog” role of vice president, Pence said Democrat Hillary Clinton has disqualified herself from becoming commander-in-chief for failing as secretary of state to rescue U.S. personnel during the 2011 attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
He also said America doesn’t need a president who sees Obamacare as just a good start and who promises to put coal miners out of work and raise utility rates on businesses and homeowners.
“Donald Trump knows that the boundless potential of the American people awaits — and we can make America great again,” Pence said.
Trump did not say in his traditional, lengthy speech that followed whether he was leaning toward Pence for vice president.
He did tell Pence “great job” following his introduction and thanked Hoosiers for helping him effectively clinch the Republican presidential nomination in the May 3 Indiana primary.
This was the final Trump rally with a potential running mate before the onetime Gary casino owner makes his selection.
In recent days, the former “Apprentice” game show host also has been joined on the campaign trail by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for a kind of veep tryout competition.
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However, Pence was the only potential running mate who got to host a Trump rally in his home state.
Trump is expected to announce his vice presidential selection Thursday or Friday.
If it’s Pence, he only has until 11 a.m. Region time Friday to withdraw from the Indiana ballot as the Republican gubernatorial nominee to run instead for vice president.
The 24-member Republican State Central Committee then would have 30 days to fill the gubernatorial candidate vacancy, and no shortage of potential candidates.
Trump’s pick for vice president must also be ratified next week by delegates attending the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Prior to the rally, Trump and Pence attended a fundraiser for Republican candidates at the private Columbia Club on Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis.
The approximately 200 guests who collectively paid more than $1.5 million to spend about an hour with Trump generally were tight-lipped entering and exiting the private club that originally was founded in 1889 to support the presidential campaign of Hoosier Republican Benjamin Harrison.
Considerably more vocal were about 100 individuals across the street from the club continuously chanting “Pence must go” — referring to his tenure as governor, not as a kind of backhanded endorsement of his bid to become Trump’s vice president for which Pence presumably would have to leave Indiana.
Among those in the largely Democratic crowd was former East Chicago state Rep. John Aguilera.
He said Trump’s recent accusation that an Indiana-born federal judge can’t be impartial in a case involving the allegedly fraudulent Trump University due to the judge’s Mexican heritage was an insult to all Hoosiers and one that required a stronger Pence condemnation than “inappropriate.”
“(Judge) Gonzalo Curiel is a Hoosier and if Mike Pence cannot stand up for one us, especially when he’s our governor, then what makes you think that he would stand up for us if he was the vice president?” Aguilera asked.
“We deserve better than Mike Pence and Donald Trump,” he said.