Mike Pence brings the calmer side of Trump campaign to Upper Bucks
By Scott Kraus Contact Reporter
Of The Morning Call
BEDMINSTER TOWNSHIP — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's rally Tuesday afternoon in Upper Bucks County lacked the taut energy and fiery passion shown by the massive crowds of dedicated supporters flocking to see running mate Donald Trump.
There was no controversial off-the cuff bluster or incendiary rhetoric.
This was a more traditional political event, attended by about 400 people at the Bedminster Township headquarters of Worth & Company Inc., a heating, ventilation and air conditioning manufacturer whose president and CEO, Stephen Worth, is a significant Republican campaign donor.
There was still plenty of red meat for Pence's conservative fans, and no shortage of swipes at Trump's Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that elicited roars of approval from the tuned-in crowd.
Early on, he highlighted new questions raised about the private email server Clinton used as secretary of state, and about the activities of the Clinton Foundation, a charity run by her husband, former president Bill Clinton.
"Hillary Clinton should shut down the Clinton Foundation right now and the Obama administration should appoint a special prosecutor to get to the bottom of what happened [there]," Pence said to cheers from the crowd. Trump also has called for a special prosecutor.
On broader themes, Pence promised a more robust military, lower taxes, reduced federal regulations and a stronger economic recovery. He said Trump would repeal the Affordable Care Act and appoint conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We want a stronger America, so let's decide here and now, let's put Pennsylvania on the board in 77 days and make sure Hillary Clinton never becomes president of the United States of America," Pence said, eliciting cheers from the audience. The election is Nov. 8.
Pence made the remarks at a site that in June 2008 hosted a town hall by then Republican presidential nominee John McCain, underlining the critical importance the county plays in statewide Pennsylvania elections.
The Philadelphia suburbs, which have been trending Democratic, have been a crucial battleground in recent presidential races.
The last Republican to win the four suburban counties was George H.W. Bush in 1988, blunting a huge Democratic advantage in Philadelphia, on his way to winning the state and the White House. He was the last Republican to carry Pennsylvania in the general election.
In 2008, Democrat Barack Obama managed to carry Bucks, Delaware and Montgomery counties, despite plenty of attention from McCain, and won them again in 2012, helping fuel his victory over Mitt Romney.
The suburbs are seen as key to Trump's ability to swing Pennsylvania back into the Republican column, but a Franklin & Marshall College poll released this month suggested he had work to do. The poll had Clinton leading Trump by 40 points among suburban voters.
That could explain why Pence made stops Tuesday in Bucks and Montgomery counties, said Chris Borick, Muhlenberg College political scientist and pollster.
"Pence is well respected as a conservative and serves as a good ambassador for Trump to more traditional Republican voters in a place like Bucks County," he said.
Most of those who came to the rally had no reservations about Trump, liking his blunt speaking style, but said they liked Pence's political experience and, in some cases, said his calmer demeanor is a good complement to Trump.
Pipersville resident Jeff Olewine, a Trump supporter who attended the rally with his 12-year-old son Josh, said Pence's political know-how and personal style will serve Trump well and help the ticket in places like Bucks.
"I think Pence can definitely help with the suburban voter," Olewine said. "His personal style; some people get nervous about Trump not having the political experience."
Democrats, holding a news conference outside the event, said no amount of polish can put a shine on policies such as family leave and the minimum wage that are damaging to the residents of Bucks County, particularly women.
"All my life I have fought this — men in powerful places, well-dressed and well-spoken with the trappings of decency — but whose words and actions would make my life and the lives of many other women harder at every turn," said Vera Cole, a Democrat running for the state House of Representatives in Bucks County and lead professor in Penn State's energy and sustainability policy program.
The Trump campaign has been busy in recent days responding to questions about a shift in its policy on illegal immigration, but Pence only mentioned the issue in passing Tuesday, promising Trump would create "strong borders, build a wall and enforce the laws of this nation."
During the Republican primaries, Trump took a hard line on illegal immigration, talking at times about creating a "deportation force" that would round up the estimated 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally for deportation.
In recent days, however, he has signaled a softer approach that focuses on identifying and deporting criminals and dangerous individuals, "the bad ones" who are here illegally, as he described them to Fox News host Bill O'Reilly on Monday night.
Trump has not been completely clear on how he would deal with the rest of the 11 million undocumented immigrants. "We want to come up with a really fair but firm answer. It has to be very firm. But we want to come up with something fair," he said Monday on the show "Fox & Friends."
Most of those interviewed outside Pence's rally Tuesday seemed OK with the possibility that Trump might soften his stance on law-abiding immigrants.
Michele May, a native of Slatington who lives in Levittown, Bucks County, said initially she disagreed with the idea. "I think he should deport them all because they are here illegally," May said.
Pressed on the issue, she said she'd be OK with a change in Trump's position if law-abiding immigrants were screened and required to become "productive members of society."
Trump was scheduled to give a speech on immigration this week in Colorado, but the event was postponed.
Pence appeared earlier Tuesday in King of Prussia, Montgomery County, and is scheduled to speak Wednesday in Wilmington, N.C. Trump appeared in Texas Tuesday and had events scheduled in Florida and Mississippi on Wednesday.
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