CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mike Pence returned to the campaign trail on Monday and promptly praised Donald Trump as a man “who never quits,” indicating to a crowd that he is all in as Trump’s running mate in the final month before Election Day.
“I joined this campaign in a heartbeat because you have nominated a man for president who never quits, who never backs down,” Pence said. “He is a fighter. He is a winner, and we will make America great again when we make Donald Trump the 45th president of the United States of America.”
At his campaign stop here, the vice presidential candidate seemed to cut off speculation over his own future after cancelling a campaign stop on Saturday and not making any public comments about the future of the campaign since Friday’s release of the 2005 video in which Donald Trump said he could use his fame to grab a woman’s genitals.
“It takes a big man to know when he's wrong and to admit it and to have the humility to apologize and be transparent and be vulnerable with people,” Pence told the crowd. “Donald Trump last night showed that he's a big man.”
The candidate has told gatherings around the country that he identifies himself as a Christian before he does as a conservative or Republican. On Monday, he set aside questions of how he could reconcile his faith with his continued full-throated backing of Trump.
“We all fall short of the glory of God,” Pence said, adding he does not “condone what was said.” He continued, though: “But the other part of my faith is I believe in grace. I've received it. I believe in it. I believe in forgiveness.”
“Last night, my running mate, he showed the American people what was in his heart,” Pence said.
In his only public comments over the weekend, the VP candidate wrote in a statement on Saturday that he looked “forward to the opportunity [Trump] has to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night.”
In Sunday night’s debate, Trump denied that he forcefully touched women without their consent and told the national audience: “I'm not proud of it. I apologize to my family. I apologize to the American people. Certainly I'm not proud of it. But this is locker room talk.”
But Pence is increasingly alone in his continued support of the real estate mogul-turned Republican nominee. Speaker Paul Ryan told House Republicans on Monday that he will no longer defend Trump.
And Pence’s stump speech, notably, omitted his key line shared with crowds ever since joining the Republican ticket that Trump “is still standing stronger than ever.”
An NBC/WSJ poll released on Monday gave Hillary Clinton a 14-percentage point lead over Trump in a national head-to-head matchup.