Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday cast the re-election of President Donald Trump as critical to preserving law and order and economic viability, asserting that Democratic rival Joe Biden would set America on a path to socialism and decline.
Amid widening protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Wisconsin, Pence and other Republicans at their national convention described the Nov. 3 election between Trump and Biden as a choice between law-and-order and lawlessness.
"The hard truth is you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America," Pence told a crowd seated in folding chairs at historic Fort McHenry in Baltimore.
Accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, Trump joined Pence on stage after the speech as the crowd chanted: "Four more years."
Police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot Blake, 29, multiple times in the back at close range on Sunday, reigniting protests against racism and police brutality that erupted across the United States earlier in the year.
During a third night of unrest on Tuesday, three people were shot, two fatally. A teenager was arrested on homicide charges. The state's lieutenant governor said he was apparently a militia member who sought to kill innocent protesters.
In his speech Pence said: "Let me be clear: the violence must stop – whether in Minneapolis, Portland or Kenosha. Too many heroes have died defending our freedom to see Americans strike each other down. We will have law and order on the streets of this country for every American of every race and creed and color."
Biden said earlier he had spoken with Blake's family on Wednesday and, like the family, called for an end to the violence. But, unlike Trump who has yet to publicly comment on the police shooting, Biden called for justice and defended the right to protest.
"Protesting brutality is a right and absolutely necessary, but burning down communities is not protest. It's needless violence," Biden said in a video posted by his campaign.
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump said he would send federal law enforcement to Kenosha by agreement with the state's governor while the U.S. Department of Justice said a federal civil rights investigation had been opened into the shooting.
DEMOCRATS CALL IT A DIVERSION
Democrats have characterized Trump's law-and-order focus as a diversion from what they say is the president's mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 178,000 Americans and cost the jobs of millions of people.
Trump has struggled to win back women voters alienated by his combative style, opinion polls show, and some speakers sought to highlight his work to elevate women - part of an effort during the convention to present a softer view of Trump that is often belied by his own actions and words.
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, who announced earlier this week she would step down at the end of the month, said Trump had put women in powerful positions and given her an influential role.
“A woman in a leadership role can still seem novel. Not so for President Trump. For decades, he has elevated women to senior positions in business and in government. He confides in and consults us, respects our opinions, and insists that we are on equal footing with the men," Conway said.
Pence spoke at the Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, Maryland — a federal facility that is the site of the battle during the War of 1812 that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
He sought to reshape the narrative around the economy, casting the millions of jobs lost to the pandemic as a temporary setback. Despite lagging behind Biden in opinion polls, Trump gets higher marks as a steward of the economy than his Democratic rival does.
"Last week, Joe Biden said 'no miracle is coming.' What Joe doesn’t seem to understand is that America is a nation of miracles and we’re on track to have the world’s first safe, effective coronavirus vaccine by the end of this year," Pence said.
"President Trump set our nation on a path to freedom and opportunity from the very first day of this administration. But Joe Biden would set America on a path of socialism and decline," he said.
Pence was put in charge of the Trump administration's response in the pandemic's early days, although Trump quickly became the face of the White House response and was criticized for minimizing the threat from the virus.
The political fallout also hit Trump's re-election campaign, cutting into his support in opinion polls, which show Americans trust Biden, 77, more than Trump, 74, to handle the pandemic.
Democrats and other critics have accused Republicans of inappropriately blurring the lines between government and partisan politics during the convention, using many of the trappings of office for his re-election campaign.
A former Indiana governor and congressman and a conservative Christian, Pence served as a key connector between Trump and evangelical voters, an influential part of the Republican political base.
At their own party convention last week, Biden and his running mate, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California, warned Americans against giving Trump another four years in the White House.
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