Vice President Pence is no stranger to the Conservative Political Action Conference, having addressed the annual gathering nine times when he was an Indiana governor and congressman.
But on Thursday night he appeared in his new role to give a vigorous defense of the first month of President Trump’s administration and pledge that the priorities their team laid out on the campaign trail would become a reality.
“Over at the White House, I like to say we’re in the promise-keeping business these days,” Pence said, going on to list the administration’s priorities.
Using Trump’s campaign slogan, Pence ticked off the ways they were already “making America great again” — from “putting Americans back to work already” to “rebuilding the military and putting our enemies on notice … supporting law enforcement and ending illegal immigration once and for all … rolling back big government and slashing through red tape ….[and] leading the fight to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
Like the president often does, Pence took some time to revel in their unlikely win last November, boasting about the “blue wall” of the Midwest in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio that Trump was able to flip to the GOP column to defeat Hillary Clinton.
And he chided another favorite opponent — the media — for not foreseeing the outcome and for continued skepticism of the new administration.
“What they should have learned on Election Day is, this is not a government of the elites, by the media, or for the establishment,” Pence said. “What November 8th showed, even if they didn’t listen, is that this is still government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Still, Pence acknowledged that their work wasn’t over, telling the crowd that “the most important work now lies ahead” and that “President Trump will fight for you every single day.”
Pence joked about the fact that he is indeed much different from the commander-in-chief.
“You know, I’m a small town guy. He’s big city. I’m Midwest, he’s Manhattan Island. He’s known for his bigger than life personality, his charm, and his charisma. And I’m, like, not,” the vice president laughed.
Still, Pence said, he had no hesitation when asked to join Trump’s ticket and was proud to serve with “a man for president who never quits, he never backs down, he is a fighter, he is a winner.”
In fact, in years past, it was Pence’s brand of conservatism that was more germane to the massive gathering that has attracted a mix of social conservative and libertarians instead of Trump’s brand of populism. As NPR’s Don Gonyea noted, the former reality TV star and real estate mogul “has not always been warmly welcomed in this particular room.” Trump will speak to the gathering on Friday morning.
Pence, however, was right at home with the CPAC crowd, giving them the red meat they wanted.
“Let me assure you, America’s Obamacare nightmare is about to end!” he crowed, while chastising “liberal activists at town halls around the country” who have come out to protest to GOP members of Congress, who are home for recess, the possible repeal and replacement of the law.
“This failed law is crippling the American economy and crushing the American people,” Pence said. “Talk about your fake news, folks. Just look at all the promises liberals made about Obamacare.”
But Pence also cautioned conservatives that they couldn’t rest on their laurels, and warned that Democrats were already salivating at the chance to knock them down.
“The other side is not sitting idle, and their allies in the media are more than willing to amplify their defense of the failed status quo every single day,” Pence said, encouraging conservatives to “make your voices heard in town halls with your family and your friends, on the Internet and social media, and all those places where commonsense conservative messages are most desperately needed, because this is our time.”
“We’ve got to mobilize,” Pence continued. “We’ve got to march forward, as if it’s the most important time in the history of our movement, because it is.”
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