CLEVELAND — Mike Pence made an impassioned effort to unite Republicans around Donald Trump, billing him as a latter day Ronald Reagan on a raucous night at the party’s Cleveland convention.
The GOP vice presidential nominee stepped up in an electric atmosphere in the Quicken Loans Arena shortly after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz exacerbated the party’s divides by refusing to publicly endorse Trump in his own speech.
“You have nominated a man for president who never quits, who never backs down, a fighter, a winner. Until now, he has had to do it all by himself against all odds — but this week, with this united party, he has got back up,” Pence roared above the cheering crowd. “Let’s resolve here and now that Hillary Clinton will never become the president of the United States of America.”
The Indiana governor, who has close ties to the establishment of the Republican Party and credibility with the conservative movement, was picked by Trump specifically to bring the party together after a fractious primary process. But his task became even more challenging after Cruz’s explosive speech, in which he implicitly suggested that Trump could not be trusted to protect the Constitution.
The vice presidential nominee painted Trump as a champion of working people in the United States, of the service personnel who protect America abroad, and the law enforcement officers on the “thin blue line.”
“I grant you, he can be a little rough on politicians on the stage, and I bet we see that again. But I have seen this good man up close, his utter lack of pretense, his respect for the people who work for him and his devotion to his family,” Pence told the crowd, accusing Democrats of preparing to nominate the exact opposite of a truth teller, in Hillary Clinton.
“Democrats are about to anoint someone who represents everything this country is tired of,” he said, slamming Clinton as the “secretary of the status quo” and accusing the media of being on her side, drawing chants from the floor of “Lock her up, Lock her up.”
He hammered Clinton over her foreign policy record, accusing her of letting Americans die in Benghazi, and of squandering the gains of the troop surge in Iraq by backing the Obama administration’s troop withdrawals and of being unfit for the challenges of a world that is “spinning out of control.”
“On the world stage, Donald Trump will lead from strength,” Pence said, saying his new partner would confront radical Islamic terrorism “at its source” and rebuild the military.
Pence finished his speech with two clear allusions to Ronald Reagan, implying that the New York billionaire was the same kind of disruptive, outsider force as the California governor who won the presidency and became a conservative hero.
“I believe we have come to another rendezvous with destiny,” he said.
“This is another time for choosing,” Pence said, quoting from Reagan’s most famous speech — a manifesto for conservatism delivered in 1964.
“If you want a president who will upend the status quo in Washington, D.C., and appoint justices of the Supreme Court who will uphold the Constitution, we have but one choice and that man is ready. This team is ready. Our party is ready and when we elect Donald Trump, the 45th president. Together, we will make America great again,” he said.