WASHINGTON: Donald Trump’s Vice-President Mike Pence took center stage at the Republican convention Wednesday to warn voters they “won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America” — and cast Trump as their protector against the “radical left”.
Pence was the keynote speaker in a parade of Trump acolytes who sought to uplift the president as a champion of American values and civil rights.
They also spoke of dark forces intent on ending the American dream and said losing to their Democratic rivals is not an option.
Pence addressed the four-day convention from Fort McHenry in Baltimore, the site of an 1814 British bombardment against American revolutionaries that inspired the poem later turned into the US national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The backdrop gave Pence a cinematic opportunity to make the patriotic case for Trump getting a second term instead of allowing the nation to be “fundamentally transformed” by a Biden administration they say would take an uncharted path towards socialism and mob rule.
“The hard truth is … you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” said the 61-year-old Pence.
Touting Trump’s strong record on the economy before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and his ongoing efforts to revive it — he urged voters to ask themselves “who do you trust to rebuild this economy?”
“A career politician who presided over the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression? Or a proven leader who created the greatest economy in the world?”
Pence’s address came amid a new flare-up of racial tensions in the US, with protests spreading over the latest police shooting of an African-American man, Jacob Blake, who was shot in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Trump has announced he is sending in additional federal forces to quell unrest in the Midwestern city, where two people were shot dead during anti-police protests on Tuesday. A 17-year-old has been arrested on murder charges over the deaths.
Addressing the latest unrest — Pence struck a tough tone.
“Let me be clear,” he said. “The violence must stop whether in Minneapolis, Portland or Kenosha,” he said.
“We will have law and order on the streets of this country for every American of every race and creed and color.”
A former congressman and governor of the Midwestern state of Indiana, the evangelical Christian Pence has taken on the role of calm counterweight to Trump’s constant drama, one who is impeccably conservative and manifestly religious.
Trump needs the well-organised evangelical community to turn out to vote in what likely will be a tight election.
When Trump’s 2016 candidacy was almost derailed by the emergence of an old recording of him boasting about grabbing women by their genitals, it was Pence who helped stem the damage.
Trump carries the baggage of a former playboy real estate tycoon — one who has faced multiple accusations of harassment and sexual assault.
But Pence has the comportment of a pious man, who reportedly refuses so much as to eat alone with a woman other than his wife, Karen.
As a traditional conservative, Pence seeks to reassure old-school Republicans while also praising the new generation of Trump loyalists — a balancing act that will likely play out within the party ahead of the next presidential election, in 2024.
The Second Lady also addressed the convention, which — like the Democratic event — has gone largely virtual in order to fight the spread of coronavirus.
So did Kellyanne Conway, a longtime close Trump advisor who announced she will be leaving the White House in late August.
Pence is playing an important part in Trump’s reelection, crisscrossing the country — with an emphasis on swing states such as Wisconsin — to drum up support.
He has similarly served as the White House’s sober pointman on the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 180,000 Americans since Trump’s initial, erroneous prediction that it would disappear without trouble.
Where Trump has veered radically between dismissing the crisis and grimly embracing a self-declared role as a “wartime president,” Pence has shouldered the unglamorous role of White House coronavirus task force coordinator.
Polls show almost two-thirds of Americans are unhappy with Trump’s performance during the pandemic.
Pence’s opponent in the race, Democratic vice presidential pick Kamala Harris, will be attacking Trump on his coronavirus record at a speech Thursday in Washington, the same day Trump gives his main acceptance speech of the Republican convention at the White House.
The Baltimore speech follows two days of appearances by Trump boosters at the convention, including First Lady Melania Trump, who on Tuesday defended the president as “an authentic person who loves this country.”