VP nominee Mike Pence stumps for Trump in Tucson
In his first campaign stop in Arizona, Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence hammered at the Obama administration and Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton, promising to undo many of the policies pushed by the White House over the last eight years.
The Indiana governor delivered his stump speech to nearly 1,000 people at the Fox Theatre in downtown Tucson on Tuesday, and then answered questions from the audience.
Early in his speech, Pence pounced on a morning statement by President Barack Obama that Donald Trump, Pence's running mate is "unfit" and "woefully unprepared" to become president.
"Well, allowing for the fact that Barack Obama knows a lot about being woefully unprepared to be president of the United States, why don’t we look at the record," Pence said.
Pence blamed the president for the rise of Islamic State in Iraq, arguing that U.S. officials had failed to complete a "status of force agreement" before removing troops from the region, and had failed to improve health care or the economy.
Pence called Trump "a fighter."
"He is a winner, and up until very recently he has been doing it all on his own," Pence said.
Pence promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a favored target of Republicans since its inception, and said that a Trump-led White House would deal with rising crime in the United States, and lead the world in foreign and military affairs.
During his speech, Pence linked Clinton to Obama's policies and said that electing her would be like giving Obama a third term. "Let’s just decide right here and now in Tucson, Arizona, that Hillary Clinton will never become president," he said to cheers from the audience.
Following his 20-minute speech, Pence took questions from the audience about several issues, including how military veterans receive benefits, failures in Arizona's mental health system, the nation’s relationship with Israel, and teachers’ pay.
On Israel, Pence said that not only was the country "our only ally in the Middle East, she is our most cherished ally in the entire world."
"They will again know American strength, and if they know nothing else, they will know that America stands with Israel," Pence said.
One woman asked Pence if a Trump administration would reinstate school prayer. Pence said that Trump believed strongly in religious freedom and would fight to rescind the Johnson amendment, a 1954 law that prohibits tax-exempt organizations like churches from endorsing political candidates.
Pence said that the U.S. Supreme Court was the key to many of this decisions and that the next president would likely choose "three to four" Supreme Court justices.
"These are decisions that will be made by the Supreme Court of the United States, right? Donald Trump is going to appoint justices to the Supreme Court in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia,” Pence said.
Scalia died in February and the U.S. Senate has refused to vote on, or even hold hearings with Obama's pick, leaving the ninth seat open.
Despite being in Southern Arizona, Pence briefly skated over immigration and border issues, stating only that Trump was "passionate" about building a wall that would "ensure our nation’s safety."
While Trump's event in March was marked by protests and a raucous crowd, Tuesday's event was quieter. Early in the event, one man stood up and yelled "You're not welcome here." He was quickly removed by security as the crowd chanted "Trump, Trump, Trump!"
Although Arizona has been reliably Republican over two decades of presidential contests, a new poll released Tuesday shows Clinton has a three-point lead over Trump in the state.