Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence spoke at a rally Thursday night at the Embassy Suites, campaigning for presidential candidate Donald Trump just days after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sander visited UNM to encourage support for Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.
Pence’s speech touched on everything from political ethics and foreign policy to health care and voter fraud.
Pence said the Clinton Foundation, and Clinton herself, has acted unethically, while emphasizing that Trump has laid out a five-point plan for reforming ethics in Washington D.C.
The plan includes a five-year ban on executive branch officials and Congress members becoming lobbyists after they leave office, a goal in line with Trump’s denigration of the current political system that has become a campaign calling card.
The plan also includes forbidding foreign lobbyists from raising money for U.S. campaigns.
“We’re not only going to clean up the White House,” Pence said. “We’re going to drain the swamp.”
Pence was quick to move to security and foreign policy, which led to chants for the building of a wall on the border that Trump has said will be built if he wins the Oval Office.
Pence, however, did not address the wall specifically.
Instead, the governor of Indiana claimed Clinton designed Obama’s foreign policy, which he said has turned out to be weak.
“Despite traveling millions of miles as secretary of state, it is undeniable. The world is more dangerous today than the day that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton took office,” he said.
Pence claimed soldiers are currently in Iraq because of the Obama administration’s decision to bring troops back too soon.
“I am certain that there are men and women here that have worn the uniform,” he said, setting of chants of “U.S.A! U.S.A!” around the room.
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Pence said Trump will rebuild a too-small military if elected, also touching on support for police within the U.S.
“Too many on the left — and too many in the media — are more than willing to use a broad brush to denounce and to demean law enforcement,” he said. “Donald Trump and I know law enforcement is not a force for division in America. They are the best of us.”
This prompted more cheers, and even compelled one audience member to shake hands with several of the officers standing at the entrance near him.
Pence also addressed the Affordable Care Act, which had its three-year anniversary on Thursday.
“We’re gonna repeal Obamacare lock stock and barrel,” he said. “We’re gonna replace it not with the socialized medicine that Hillary Clinton longs to see. We’re gonna pass reforms that lower the cost of health insurance without growing the size of government.”
He said Trump’s plan for healthcare involves increasing consumer choices.
Pence mentioned the U.S. Supreme Court and its empty seat, encouraging supporters to remember that the next president might be appointing up to three or four justices during his or her term.
Pence also addressed voter fraud and the criticism Trump has received for focusing on it.
“The right to vote is the bedrock of the American democracy, and it has been bought at too high a price for us not to do all we can to ensure the integrity of the American democracy,” Pence said.
The audience began chanting “Voter ID” in response, with one man holding his ID up into the air. Pence encouraged the audience to become involved in working at polling stations and staying vigilant, echoing a similar message by Sanders on Tuesday that voters shouldn’t be apathetic to the election and what comes after Nov. 8.
Pence also discussed Trump’s controversial refusal to say whether he would accept the results of the election at Wednesday night’s debate, discussing the ticket’s potential actions in a decidedly tamer manner than many believed Trump displayed during the final debate with Clinton.
“Of course we’ll accept a clear election result,” Pence said, “but we also reserve the right to file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result.”
UNM student Fernando Castro, who attended the rally, said he is interested in all of the political campaigns as an international studies and political science major. He said Pence’s rally in particular had more security than Sanders’ visit to campus on Tuesday.
“Most of the time I have considered myself a Democrat,” Castro said. “But I don’t like Hillary. I don’t like Trump,” echoing a sentiment felt by many this election cycle.
Patrick Burns said he is an undecided voter and came to see if Pence speaking in person would help him decide.
“I grew up a strict conservative in Texas, and this election has been a mess to say the least. I don’t really like our two party system as a result of it,” he said. “It’s choosing who is the least worst candidate.”
Burns said he thinks the GOP needs to become more socially liberal to stay relevant
“I think that’s more in tune with Millennials,” he said. “I think it’s just out of touch to be so socially conservative on a lot of issues.”
David Gallegos and his husband James Gallegos-Bird are both firm Trump supporters.
“We got to see firsthand the hate that you would not expect from a liberal community,” Gallegos said. “We’re experiencing that being from Santa Fe, getting messages of hate on Facebook and social media because they see that we come to these and we support somebody who is a Republican and a conservative.”
Gallegos-Bird said he’s supported Trump since he announced he was running, and is optimistic about the results of the election.
“I think there are a lot of people out there that are in the silent majority that are going to show themselves that are being disregarded by the mainstream media and by the polls,” he said. “If nothing else, we’re going to show that America has moved beyond this period of political correctness and failed policies that are really killing us.”
Cathy Cook is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Cathy_Daily.