HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Vice President Mike Pence took a bus tour through West Michigan Wednesday to drum up support from President Donald Trump’s Republican base in the region.
“Hello, Michigan!” Pence greeted an excited crowd of about 150 in Holland during a “Keep America Great” rally. “It is great to be back in the Wolverine state, to be here with so many friends indoors and overflow outdoors.”
“We’re here for one reason and one reason only,” he continued, “and that is that Michigan and America need four more years of President Donald Trump in the White House,” Pence said, prompting the crowd to chant, “four more years, four more years!”
Pence name-dropped West Michigan native U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Rep. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland. Pence also threw some support toward Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Gary Peters.
The vice president said that since Trump was elected, the economy has boomed, saying there are more and better jobs for women and minorities, saying “the American dream is working again for every American.”
“This is the best economy for American workers in American history,” Pence claimed. “Wages are rising all across the country … at the fastest pace they’ve risen in a decade.”
He said the president had invested in the military and gotten NATO to contribute more to common defense efforts. The crowd chanted “USA, USA,” as Pence discussed dismantling the Islamic State militant group. They chanted “build that wall, build that wall,” as he talked about the southern border.
He promised to protect the freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the right to bear arms. He also reiterated the administration’s opposition to abortion, an issue he also brought up earlier in the day at a visit to a Portage church.
He called the Democrat-backed impeachment proceedings in Congress a “disgrace.”
“Enough is enough. This sham impeachment should end and Congress should get back to work on the issues that matter to the American people,” he said. “It’s not only a disgrace what they’re doing, it’s a disgrace what they’re not doing.”
He urged Congress to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on agriculture trade and work on a defense spending bill.
“President Trump and I are never going to stop fighting to keep the promises we made … to keep America great,” he said.
He said the Democratic party has swung too far toward socialism, calling Health Care for All plans and the Green New Deal out of step.
“It was freedom, not socialism, that made American the strongest, most prosperous nation in the world,” he said. “So we must say … America will never be a socialist country.”
He reminded supporters to get out and vote in November 2020. He recalled his and Trump’s visit to West Michigan in the early hours of Election Day 2016, saying the support they saw in Grand Rapids that night told them they were going to win. He said Trump “sounded a little bit jealous” when Pence told him he was visiting Michigan Wednesday.
Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who introduced Pence, spoke out against Democrats’ universal health care plans and gun control bills. She said Trump and Pence support private insurance options and the 2nd Amendment, to loud applause.
The vice president arrived at the Kalamazoo Battle Creek International Airport shortly before noon, shaking hands and taking photos with with an enthusiastic crowd of a invited guests.
“It was exciting, historic. It was good to see Vice President Pence. We were really excited to see him,” Alicia Nelson of Grand Rapids, who was in the crowd, told News 8. “I have a friend who just told him that she’s been praying for him, and he just really appreciated that. And my son’s on the Trump campaign, so he was just thanking us for our support.”
Pence’s first bus tour stop was Valley Family Church in Portage, where he addressed about 60 people from a cross section of religious groups all over the state. His focus was on what he views as the administration’s protections of religious freedoms, referencing his anti-abortion stance, among other things.
“It was a very special event,” Valley Family Church Executive Pastor Matt Munsen said.
He said he didn’t know what to expected when he got a call a few weeks ago that a high-ranking Washington official wanted to talk to a gathering of religious leaders at his church. He learned only a few days ago that it was Pence.
When asked why religious groups were important to the Trump/Pence ticket, Munsen said, “that’s a question for them.”
He continued, “I think what’s important from us from the faith community is that we’re to honor our elected officials regardless of our political parties and we’re to be praying for people that are leaders and people of influence.”
Pence also had bus tour stops with faith and community leaders scheduled at Hope College and the American Legion in Grand Rapids.
Democrats haven’t even chosen their presidential nominee yet, but it’s already clear that Michigan is going to be a big deal in 2020 and Trump is already showing he’s going to hit it hard. That’s what he did in 2016 and he ultimately won the state by a slim margin — the first time a Republican presidential candidate had done so 1988.
The importance of the state’s role was underscored by NBC News’ decision to make Kent County one of its five areas of focus leading up to the election.
—News 8’s Joe LaFurgey and political reporter Rick Albin contributed to this report.