Pence in Mich.: Election ‘choice between two futures’

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau
Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence speaks during the Macomb County Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner at Palazzo Grande Banquet & Event Center in Shelby Township.

Shelby Township — Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence on Monday sought to frame the election in a speech to Macomb County Republicans as a choice between two ideals, not the two polarizing candidates at the top of the ballot.

“It’s not really a choice between two people,” the Indiana governor said at a Macomb County GOP Lincoln Day dinner. “It’s a choice between two futures.”

Pence said GOP presidential Donald Trump would restore prosperity, make the country a stronger world power and uphold “the constitutional liberties enshrined in our founding documents.”

Trump’s running mate used his 24-minute speech to the Republican faithful to try to discredit the governing experience of rival Democrat Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state and U.S. senator.

“Americans are crying out for change,” Pence said. “The other party has actually nominated someone who literally personifies the failed status quo in Washington, D.C. It really is truly amazing.”

Pence spoke before a sold-out crowd of more than 940 people who bought tickets to attend the dinner at the Palazzo Grand.

The second-term Indiana governor was warmly received before a friendly crowd in Macomb County, where Trump has sought to establish a stronghold of support in his bid to stop a six-election losing streak of Republican presidential candidates in Michigan.

Former state GOP chairman Ron Weiser, who is running for the University of Michigan Board of Regents, helped secure Pence as the speaker. Weiser called Pence “one of the finest human beings that any of us has ever met.”

In his speech, Pence made no direct mention of the controversies surrounding Trump’s candidacy over the past 10 days, including allegations of sexual assault and harassment by several different women, accusations Trump has vehemently denied.

But Pence used a bit of humor to expand upon Trump’s daily claim that the mainstream media is trying to help Clinton win the presidency by writing about the women accusing him of sexual assault.

“It’s been like two-on-one every day with the media out there doing Hillary Clinton’s work for her,” Pence said. “It’s like Michigan and Michigan State playing every game on the road against a hostile crowd. But the truth of the matter is Donald Trump’s still winning hearts and minds every single day.”

Pence also highlighted recent revelations in the hacked Clinton campaign emails that raised new questions about the intersection between Clinton’s State Department, her family’s foundation and political influence.

“This election is about bigger things that her small ethics,” Pence said.

He stressed the importance of Republicans winning the White House and controlling the nomination of up to three justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Literally the delicate balance of the Supreme Court is on the line,” Pence said.

Pence urged Macomb County Republicans to “uphold the vote,” making a veiled reference to Trump’s recent claims the election may be rigged.

Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has maintained his support for Trump despite condemning the businessman’s lewd comments about women, sidestepped questions before the speech about Trump’s claims of a “rigged” election at the ballot box.

“I’m not getting into the detail strategy of things,” Schuette said of Trump’s characterization of ballot box integrity. “I think this is an election of change; people want change.”

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson also attended the Macomb County dinner for Pence’s speech.

Before the speech, Johnson said she has “full confidence” in the state’s decentralized election system, despite broad claims by Trump that the presidential election will be “rigged.”

“In Michigan, we have the checks and balances to make sure that the elections will be done properly, with integrity,” Johnson told The Detroit News.

Pence’s speech was his third visit to Michigan since joining Trump on the ticket at the July 18-21 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Brandon Dillon, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, downplayed the perceived strength of Trump support in Macomb County, the state’s third-largest county.

“I’m not so sure it’s Trumpland,” Dillon said in an interview Monday. “I think on election night you’re going to see Hillary Clinton carry Macomb County. ... People are starting to realize that Donald Trump, no matter what he says, cannot be trusted.”

The dinner was a fundraiser for the Macomb County Republican Party.

Tickets sold for $60 each individually or $55 each for a table of 10. Attendees who spent $175 each got to attend a private reception with Pence before the dinner.

Linda Torp, chairwoman of the Macomb County Republican Party, said the 940 tickets they sold was the biggest crowd for a Lincoln Day dinner since 2000 when then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush spoke.