Pence introduces Trump to reinforce ‘unity of party’

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Detroit — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence made his second appearance ever before the Detroit Economic Club as the running mate delivered Monday a surprise introduction of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence introduces running mate Donald Trump. Pence's appearance was a surprise.

In November 2010, Pence spoke to a Detroit Economic Club luncheon in Birmingham and defended his opposition to the federal taxpayer bailout of General Motors. At the time, Pence was a prominent member of Congress who said he was “humbled” to be encouraged to run for president in 2012 — a race he passed on in favor of running for governor.

On Monday, Pence extolled Trump’s candidacy for the White House before the real estate tycoon detailed his plans for jump-starting a stagnant economy and slashing taxes for middle-class families, heirs and corporations.

Pence used his remarks to talk about how he and Trump have become “fast friends” and contrasted the New York businessman’s outlook on America’s future with Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

“He’s quite a contrast from the other party’s nominee,” Pence said. “(Democrats) tell us this economy is the best we can do. The American people know it’s nowhere near the best we can do. It’s just the best they can do.”

Pence stopped in Detroit on his way to late afternoon and evening campaign rallies in Sioux City and Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The Indiana governor’s unannounced appearance at the event may reassured Republican voters who remain wary of Trump, said Detroit businessman John Rakolta Jr., who introduced Pence.

“It was incredibly important to show unity of the party, unity of the ticket,” said Rakolta, chairman of the Detroit-based Walbridge construction company. “This was a very, very important policy speech, and I thought the combination of the two of them absolutely hit it out of the park.”

As a member of the economic club’s board of directors, Rakolta was tapped to be the presiding officer for Trump’s lunchtime speech. Rakolta also is raising money for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee.

Pence’s appearance was his second trip to Michigan since joining Trump’s ticket last month. Pence campaigned July 28 in Grand Rapids and Novi.

A week after Pence’s visit, Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine gave a campaign stump speech Friday in Grand Rapids, touting Clinton’s jobs plan.

Clinton will return to Michigan on Wednesday for an evening fundraiser in Birmingham and is planning her own address on jobs and the economy Thursday in Metro Detroit. Details of the event have not yet been released.

Clinton and Kaine are “chasing” Trump and Pence in Michigan, said state GOP Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel.

“(Clinton) wasn’t scheduled to be here until Donald Trump announced his speech at the economic club,” McDaniel said. “Pence and Trump are committed to Michigan, they’re leading and Clinton and Kaine are reacting.”

Twitter: @ChadLivengood