By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
GILFORD – To chants of “Fill that Seat,” Vice President Mike Pence assured supporters that this Saturday, President Donald Trump will nominate a conservative woman to fill the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court left vacant by feminist pioneer Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died Friday.
Pence said Tuesday that Trump will draw from the list he has had “and we will fill that seat.”
Pence also said in his 41-minute address that attacks on law enforcement “must stop now.”
“Burning businesses is not free speech,” Pence said. “We are not going to defund the police, not now but never.”
The vice president addressed supporters at a hangar at Laconia Municipal Airport.
Pence additionally assured New Hampshire residents who have seen 438 deaths from COVID-19 that there will be a vaccine before the end of the year. “Our economic recovery is on the ballot” in 42 days, Pence said.
“The choice in this election is whether America remains America,” he said, “Or takes that hard left turn” to elect former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat.
Pence emerged from his plane in Manchester wearing a face mask, with fellow Republican Gov. Chris Sununu to wave across the tarmac. He apologized for not landing his plane at Laconia airport, which is technically in Gilford, noting it needed a longer runway for his plane.
Pence descended the stairs of his plane, to give arm bumps rather than handshakes to Corky Messner, who is running as the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, Matt Mowers, a former fellow Trump Administration official who is running to unseat Democrat U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas for the District 1 Congressional seat and Steve Negron, running to defeat U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster as the District 2 Congressman.
Pence, the former six-term Indiana Congressman and its governor, was tapped by Trump in 2016 as his running mate. He did not know Trump personally before that. Pence said: “The road to victory goes straight through New Hampshire.”
He was not introduced by Sununu, but instead by Messner who said the Senate is “going to confirm” a replacement to Ginsburg.
The long-time jurist and popular cultural icon said before she died that her fervent hope was that the next president will select her replacement.
After arriving at the AutoServ Hangar at Gate K of the small airport where registrants for the event agreed to waive all rights to sue the Trump campaign or the property owners for any COVID-19 infection “whether negligent or otherwise,” Pence went right to work and concluded by taking photos with supporters, then left.
Biden has not held such in-person rallies citing health concerns caused by the pandemic which has killed 200,000 United States citizens.
But Biden’s Deputy Campaign Manager and Communications Director Kate Bedingfield released the following statement on Pence’s visit to New Hampshire:
“For four years, the Trump-Pence administration has failed Granite State workers and families. They failed to protect Americans from the COVID-19 crisis, and as a result, 438 Granite Staters have lost their lives and more than 65,000 are out of work. To make matters worse, the Trump Administration is trying to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, which would rip away critical protections from as many as 572,000 Granite Staters living with preexisting conditions.
“A campaign rally isn’t going to reverse the damage wrought by this administration or make New Hampshire voters forget that for nearly four years, President Trump and Vice President Pence’s failed leadership has left Granite State workers and families behind.
New Hampshire needs a leader with a plan to end the pandemic and build the economy back better than before. Joe Biden will be a president who Granite Staters can trust to unite our nation, protect and expand access to quality, affordable health care, and build an economy that deals in everyone.”
Four years ago, Trump narrowly lost New Hampshire to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but the Trump campaign is sending its candidate and surrogates to New Hampshire in droves with the presumption that the state’s four electoral votes are still in play and that New Hampshire could be an important swing state.
One aspect of the Republican optimism is that Gov. Chris Sununu has a high approval rating.
State Sen. Dan Feltes, who is running as a Democrat to defeat Sununu, said in response to the Pence visit that the governor has called himself, “A Trump guy through and through,” but Trump and Pence have failed to deliver on any of the promises they made to New Hampshire.
Pence did not address the fact that Trump did not carry the state in the last election but he said he would go on to victory for a second term here.
A request for comment from the Sununu campaign was not immediately returned. Pence focused on job creation prior to the pandemic.
Pence said it is because the Trump Administration rolled back more federal red tape than anyone, fought for fair trade, and created more than 7 million good-paying jobs nationally that the nation made such progress in the economy during the first three years of the four-year term.
He said to applause that Trump has stood for “the value of human life” and the right to bear arms.
Addressing the issue of the vacancy on the high court, Pence said Ginsburg led an inspiring life and the nation mourns her passing.
But he said before the week is out, the president will nominate a successor.
“This Saturday, the president will nominate another principled conservative, a woman,” Pence said, and “we are going to fill that seat.”
“Fill that seat,” the crowd chanted.
“We are going to do it in an election year,” he said noting that in 29 similar cases, 29 presidents have done so.
Pence did not address the pandemic until he acknowledged the nation reached “a heart-breaking milestone” of 200,000 deaths from the virus, this week. But before the first case was diagnosed in the United States, he said Trump suspended all travel from China and “put the health of the nation first,” buying some time.
He said Biden said that decision was “hysterical and xenophobic.”
Pence said, “That action saved untold American lives.”
The vice president said the nation is on track to have the first safe and effective virus before the end of this year.
“We’re slowing the spread, we’re protecting the vulnerable,” he stressed.
Pence said the stakes have never been higher in an election and urged those attending to “get out and tell the story.”
“We came real close in 2016,” he said of New Hampshire. “We are going to deliver New Hampshire for four more years.”
Pence said, “freedom is on the ballot” this November, and New Hampshire always plays “an outsized role” in elections.
“So go talk to your neighbors and friends and finally, in these times of great challenge in our nation, where we seem to see more division than any time in my lifetime, I encourage you to exercise that other kind of faith, too, I encourage you…to bend a knee,” in reference to prayer.
“I am not asking you to pray for a candidate or team or cause,” Pence said. “but all the American people…to heal this nation.”
If elected, Pence said, “We are going to make New Hampshire and America stronger than ever before.”
And, he concluded, “With God’s help, we will make American great again, again.”