Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence campaigned Thursday on Donald Trump’s anti-establishment theme in southeast Michigan while hitting conservative social issues considered important to the party’s base in socially conservative west Michigan.
Pence reassured a crowd in Walker that GOP presidential nominee Trump will appoint Supreme Court justices focused on overturning four decades of abortion rights rulings if he’s elected president.
The U.S. Supreme Court has four Republican-nominated justices and four Democrat-appointed justices since the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in mid-February. In May, Trump released a list of 11 potential nominees, including a Michigan Supreme Court justice and a U.S. Court of Appeals judge from Michigan, whom he said reflect “constitutional principles I value.”
“If we appoint strict constructionists to the Supreme Court as Donald Trump intends to do, I believe we will see Roe v. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs,” Pence said during a town hall-style event at the DeltaPlex in suburban Grand Rapids.
Republican activists have viewed Pence’s addition to Trump’s ticket as helping shore up social conservative voters, especially on the issue of allowing women to chose to abort a pregnancy. Trump has stated support for abortion rights for women in the past before he ran for president, when he said he is pro-life.
“I couldn’t be more proud to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the next pro-life president of the United States of America, Donald Trump,” Pence told the crowd.
At a later stop in Novi, he briefly told a crowd of about 1,000 that he and Trump support the sanctity of life, a line that was cheered.
Michigan Democrats struck back against the comments.
“It’s something he wants to see happen. And I find that frightening,” Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown said, adding Trump and Pence are “out to turn the clock back on women’s rights.”
Brown stressed neither Trump nor Pence speak for Oakland County or Michigan women.
“Trump has never missed an opportunity to insult women,” she said, adding that Pence “has never missed an opportunity to vote against women.”
In the more moderate Oakland County Pence argued Michigan voters should choose “a fighter” over the establishment’s “stale agenda” embodied by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her vice presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia.
“I hope you find your neighbors and friends, pull them aside and say: ‘We can elect someone tonight who personifies the failed establishment in Washington, D.C., or we can choose a leader,’ ” Pence said to thunderous applause at the Suburban Collection Showplace.
“America is crying out for new and different,” he said. “They (Democrats) answered with a stale agenda and the most predictable of names. The American people are tired.”
Pence vowed Trump is running on the issues and will confront radical terrorism and build strong borders. At moments during the 30-minute rally, people sporadically yelled, “Build a wall.”
Unlike the Novi rally, the Indiana governor took questions from the Grand Rapids audience for about 16 minutes. One was about how Trump will work with a Congress closely aligned with big business campaign donors.
Pence, who served five terms in Congress, boasted that he led the unsuccessful fight against the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street banks known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program. It was the source of funding that would later be used to save General Motors Corp., Chrysler LLC and their two lending arms from financial ruin.
“I was a Republican in the Congress, but I actually helped lead the fight against the Wall Street bailout back in 2008,” Pence said. “I saw Wall Street come together with official Washington to transfer hundreds of billions of dollars to nationalize every bad mortgage in America.”
Despite hailing from a manufacturing state, Pence opposed the auto bailout in 2009.
Democrat Hillary Clinton, who voted for the Wall Street bailout as a U.S. senator from New York, is part of a “rigged” system in Washington, Pence said.
“It’s the rigged system that’s going to be continued if the Democratic nominee, who address the nation tonight, is elected,” Pence said.
Clinton used Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ opposition to TARP just days before Michigan’s March 8 primary to label him an opponent of the bailouts of GM and Chrysler.
She argued that Sanders’ vote in January 2009 against releasing the last $350 billion allotment from the $700 billion program during the financial crisis was effectively a vote against the auto bailout — a characterization that the Vermont senator vehemently rejected. Sanders upset Clinton in the primary.
Holly Shashaguay, 45, of Fennville said Trump’s addition of Pence to his ticket was encouraging because he is surrounding himself with experienced political leaders.
“I would like to see a little more political leadership from (Trump) as opposed to business leadership,” said Shashaguay, a self-described tea party activist who voted for Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in the primary.
Pence was in Grand Rapids for most of the day, making a stop at the Kent County Republican Party headquarters with U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland,beforeheading to Novi.