CLEVELAND — Mike Pence, in his first solo event as Donald Trump’s VP pick, urged a roomful of conservatives on Tuesday to “come together” around the GOP ticket – in perhaps remarks previewing his primetime speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday.
“The time has come for us to come together – primaries are over,” Pence said in unannounced appearance with the Conservative American Union. “It was a big stage up there with a lot of extraordinarily talented men and women," Pence said of the primary campaign. "But I say to my fellow conservatives today, it's time for us to come together.”
A day after a flurry of delegates rose up on the convention floor to protest the lack of opportunity to express dissent with the real estate mogul through a formal roll call vote, Pence insisted Republicans must back Trump, plus Senate and House candidates across the country. Prominent conservatives and former Cruz-backing delegates for months insisted Trump pick a running mate with a history of conservative credentials.
“For the sake of a Supreme Court who will uphold the sanctity of life, our Second Amendment and our God-given liberties, we must elect Donald Trump,” Pence emphatically stated into the podium microphone.
For the campaign, exact plans for how the Indiana governor are still not clear. Pence was seen by the campaign as having the opportunity shore up conservative support in historically red states but also lock up the backing of several key Midwest states.
Pence, who arrived to Cleveland on Monday, noted to the gathering that his trip to the luncheon marked his first trip with Secret Service.
“I came over on my first trip in a motorcade today,” Pence said. “I actually got out of the car in the alley and I saw all these cars, and I turned to the security official and I said, 'Are they all with us?'”
He then turned to his wife, Karen Pence, in the crowd and chuckled: “Welcome to our life, dear.”
With less than four months until the election, Pence’s personnel operation continues to be built.
Traditionally, the campaign of each party’s nominee has established a team for the VP pick, formed out of the existing apparatus that simply rededicated itself to the running mate’s movements. Last weekend, the Trump campaign announced its own for Pence – but unlike previous nominees, only one member of his team Kellyanne Conway, his newly-appointed adviser, had worked directly for Trump before this weekend’s announcement. Conway also serves as a senior adviser to Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chair.
Instead, Pence’s operation consists of a staff that has entirely worked directly with the governor in the past.
Over the weekend, questions also blossomed over the chemistry of the two running mates after Trump appeared hesitant to announce Pence as his pick and then, at Saturday’s first public event with one another, Trump focused little on Pence’s attributes during a scattered, 30-minute introduction of him.
And on Sunday in a joint interview on 60 Minutes, the duo seemingly worked through clear contrasts with one another as the interview played out. At one point, Trump said his VP selection is “very establishment, in many ways,” which for Pence, an early voice in the Tea Party, has never been the typical characterization assigned to him.
But on Tuesday, Pence continued to hold the line in his unwavering lauding of Trump.
“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 told the luncheon attendees.