The American Conservative Union Foundation hosted an event at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, featuring panel discussions on whether conservatives will support Trump and whether the “imperial Obama presidency” can be reversed. It also included a surprise keynote speech from Donald Trump’s vice presidential pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Pence was introduced by NRA’s Chris Cox, who said that it is important for conservatives to win the culture war, because right now “everything that we’ve grown up knowing to be good, right and true has been twisted and perverted and repackaged to our kids as wrong.” Cox said the Second Amendment suffered a “devastating loss” with the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. “This is a critical time in American history,” he said. “It’s a critical time for constitutional freedoms.”
Pence’s appearance may have been a practice run of sorts for Wednesday night’s speech. He worked hard to convince attendees that they should feel good about supporting Trump, who Pence repeatedly called “this good man.”
Pence got applause with his first three words, “my fellow conservatives.” He described himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” He gave a short political bio, taking about being inspired to run for office by Ronald Reagan, serving in Congress, and then returning to Indiana, where he has helped usher in the largest school voucher program in the country.
Pence bragged that his “strong Republican leadership” has achieved results in Indiana, “and that’s exactly the kind of strong Republican leadership Donald Trump will bring to the White House.”
Pence described Trump as a builder, a fighter, a father, and a patriot. He said after spending time with Trump, “I know that Donald Trump will be a great president of the United States of America because his heart beats with the heart of the American people.”
Pence compared Trump to Ronald Reagan, who he said “never lost the common touch.” He recalled a story about when, as a young congressional candidate, he met Reagan and said he was grateful for everything Reagan had done for the country. Reagan demurred, saying, “The American people decided to right the ship, and I was just the captain they decided to put on the bridge, and they did.”
Pence said he sees and hears in Donald Trump the same humility and unshakeable faith in the American people that he saw in Reagan.
Pence also had some direct words for those conservatives who have been resistant to Trump’s charms:
So the time has come for us to come together. The primaries are over. It was a big stage up there, with a lot of extraordinarily talented men and women. I say to my fellow conservatives today, it’s time for us to come together, time for us to come together around this good man and reelecting Republican majorities in the House and the Senate, because this is no ordinary time in the life of our nation…
We must decide here and now that Hillary Clinton will never become president of the United States of America…for the sake of a Supreme Court that will uphold the sanctity of life, our Second Amendment and our God-given liberties, we must elect Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States of America.