Phoenicians, Arpaio Praise Gov. Mike Pence

PHOENIX (CN) — A furious monsoon couldn’t keep hundreds of people from a town hall event for Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence in downtown Phoenix Tuesday night.
     Attendees started lining up at the Phoenix Convention Center around 3 p.m. for Pence’s evening event, braving heat, humidity and downpours to see the Indiana governor.
     Severe monsoons hit the Arizona capital late Tuesday afternoon, flooding portions of Interstate 17, and dropping more than 2 inches of rain in an hour.
     The audience of about 300 amped themselves up before Pence took the stage, chanting, “We like Mike!” and “USA!”
     Arizona, which has gone Republican since Bill Clinton narrowly won the state in 1996, may be a battleground state this election.
     A poll conducted Monday by OH Predictive Insights found 45 percent of voters in the state supporting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, with 42 percent opting for Trump. The remaining 13 percent were undecided or supported third-party candidates.
     Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio kicked off the event, entering the stage to raucous applause, a standing ovation and shouts of “Joe!”
     “I just met Gov. Pence of Indiana,” the six-term lawman began. “Got to apologize to him for the rain. I can do a lot of things, but I can’t stop it.”
     Arpaio immediately launched into praise of Trump.
     “Thirteen months ago in this building I stood next to him. I supported him way back,” Arpaio said. “If you recall, I said my gut tells me he will be the next president of the United States.”
     Arpaio expressed frustration with the media treatment of Trump’s criticism of the parents of an American Muslim soldier who was killed in Iraq. After Khizr Khan’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, Trump asked whether Khan’s wife, Ghazala, remained silent because their Muslim faith would not allow her to speak.
     Ghazala Khan said that her silence was due to her grief for her son’s death.
     Army Capt. Humayun S.M. Khan, recipient of a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, was killed in 2004 by a vehicle filled with explosives.
     Trump also has claimed that Khizr Khan’s speech was prepared by the Clinton campaign.
     “I know his heart,” Arpaio said of Trump. “I’m very sad at the heat he’s taken, especially from the media.”
     Arpaio, who is running for re-election, was found in contempt of court this year for violating a federal court order in a racial profiling class action. He faces possible criminal charges.
     Former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer also spoke before Pence took the stage, extolling time spent working with him while she was governor.
     “He’s not afraid to call a terrorist a terrorist,” Brewer said. “He’s not afraid to salute our flag, wear a flag pin, say the pledge of allegiance.”
     Brewer asked voters to keep Clinton out of the White House.
     “Donald Trump is the right person for the job, and Mike Pence is the right person for the job,” Brewer said. “Together they will fight radical Islamic terrorism. And together they will secure our border and build that wall.”
     Pence spoke to the crowd for about 30 minutes, then took questions.
     “For the sake of our security, for the sake of our prosperity, let’s decide here and now in Arizona that Hillary Clinton will not become president,” Pence said, inciting chants of “Lock her up!”
     “We cannot have four more years accommodating or apologizing to our enemies,” Pence said.
     He spoke at length about his admiration of Trump and the “connection” Trump has with the American people.
     “This country is ready to elect Donald Trump,” Pence said.
     Questions varied for him touched on jobs, homelessness and getting out the vote.
     “What I will tell you about Donald Trump is, the first thing he is going to do, and you Arizonans know this better than most, is he will build a wall,” Pence said to uproarious applause.
     Trump’s proposal to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, and make Mexico pay for it, has been met with praise from the right and disdain from the left. It evoked an unusually frank response from former Mexican President Vicente Fox, of the conservative PAN party, who said, “I’m not going to pay for that fucking wall.”
     Pence had another take on it. “Latino and Hispanic Americans care as much about security as every American,” he said. “Let’s celebrate diversity and heal our hearts as much as we heal our minds.”
     The final question came from a 12-year-old girl, who asked what he would do to stop the so-called Islamic State.
     “I’m very impressed with you, well done,” Pence said, thanking the girl for her question. “[I’d] give the men and women in uniform the resources they need to hunt down and destroy ISIS.”
     Todd Phillips, 32, said came out to get a feel for what Pence can bring to the ticket.
     “I’ve done a lot of reading about him. I like that he’s a Christian and he stands for the issues I do,” Phillips said.
     Phillips hoped to hear Pence speak about jobs and immigration.
     “I work in IT, and I always worry about losing my job to someone from another country,” Phillips said. “That shouldn’t happen in the nation I was born and raised in.”
     Megan Davis, who attended with her grandparents, also had concerns about immigration.
     “It’s just not OK that people who come here illegally get all these benefits, and my family has to scrape by to support me and my brothers,” the 20-year-old said.
     Davis, a community college student, says she’s voted Republican and for conservative causes in every election since she turned 18.
     “There are young people like me that believe in the Constitution, and don’t want to see this country taken advantage of,” Davis said. “I know Donald Trump will keep me safe from terrorism and illegal immigrants.”
     Jim Norris, 52, liked the balance that Pence brings to the Trump campaign.
     “You know, Trump speaks his mind and gives it to you straight. None of that P.C. bull,” Norris said. “Pence is a little more suave in how he approaches questions and the media, and Trump needs that to pull in some of the moderate voters, I think.”
     Pence’s visit to Arizona came on the same day Trump declined to endorse Sen. John McCain’s re-election bid in an interview with The Washington Post.
     Despite the snub, Pence met with McCain Tuesday before the town hall.
     “Upon scheduling a trip to Arizona, Gov. Pence’s office reached out to John McCain to request a meeting. John McCain was happy to welcome Gov. Pence to Phoenix, and they enjoyed a very friendly meeting, during which they discussed a variety of issues,” McCain spokeswoman Lorna Romero said in a statement.
     On Monday, McCain rebuked Trump for his comments on the Khan family.
     “While our party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us,” McCain said in a statement.
     Earlier Tuesday, Pence appeared at a town hall in Tucson in front of about 1,000 people. On Wednesday Pence will be in Denver and Colorado Springs, while Trump campaigns in Daytona Beach, Fla.
     

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