Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday in Fort Wayne that the American way of life is on the line in the Nov. 3 presidential election.
"I think the choice in this election is whether America remains America," Pence told a crowd of more than 400 people gathered for a campaign rally at the Aero Center at Fort Wayne International Airport.
He said freedom, patriotism, liberties, faith and family are all on the ballot when voters choose between the Republican ticket of President Donald Trump and Pence and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris.
"It's clear: Joe Biden would be nothing more than a Trojan horse for the radical left," Pence said from the stage inside an Aero Center hangar.
The former Indiana governor and congressman accused Biden of wanting higher taxes, socialized health care and the availability of taxpayer-funded abortions. He contended that Biden cost the U.S. manufacturing jobs when he was Barack Obama's vice president, "never lifted a finger" to reduce the trade deficit and "has been a cheerleader for China all the way" on trade policy.
By contrast, Pence said Trump cut taxes, created 7 million jobs, beefed up the military, helped veterans, eliminated the Affordable Care Act mandate requiring people to carry medical insurance and is "the most pro-life president" in history.
"In three short years, we made America great again," said Pence, paraphrasing Trump's campaign slogan, which adorned the red caps worn by many people in the audience.
The presidential race is between "a career politician" in former Delaware senator Biden and "a proven job creator" in Trump, he said.
"Who do you think is going to bring the economy all the way back" from its downturn during the coronavirus pandemic, Pence asked the gathering, who frequently applauded, cheered, whistled and briefly chanted "USA, USA" and "Four more years, four more years."
Trump supports peaceful protest, Pence insisted, but "rioting and looting are not peaceful protest; burning businesses is not free speech" – a reference to violence in some cities during demonstrations against the killings of Black people by police in Minneapolis, Louisville, Atlanta and elsewhere.
"Under President Trump, I make you a promise: We are not going to defund the police," he said about a decision that is the responsibility of municipal officials.
Pence said Hoosiers are "proud" of Trump's Supreme Court justice nominee, South Bend resident Amy Coney Barrett. He noted that Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California had said to Barrett during her 2017 confirmation as a federal appellate judge that the Christian "dogma lives loudly within you."
"That dogma lives loudly in me," Pence said.
He said Trump had "saved untold American lives" during the pandemic by shutting down travel from China, where the virus began in late 2019. He credited the Trump administration with increases in virus tests, therapeutics and medical supplies.
"Before the end of the year, we are going to have the first safe and effective coranavirus vaccine," he predicted near the end of his nearly hourlong speech.
Many people in the hangar crowd were not wearing masks until instructed to do so not long before the rally began at 4:30 p.m. Throughout the event, some went without masks, and social distancing was lax even through chairs had been set a few feet apart.
"I came out because I'm a die-hard Republican, very conservative, anti-abortion, and Mr. Donald Trump, that's what he stands for and that's all that matters, we don't kill people," said a mask-wearing woman who gave her name only as Robin.
Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, was the first speaker in the program, calling Pence "the greatest vice president we've ever had." He was followed by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Gov. Eric Holcomb.
"We are going to roll in the state of Indiana," Holcomb said about Republican prospects for Election Day victories.
In a media conference call ahead of Pence's visit, several Democratic Party leaders and officials criticized Pence and Trump for their response to the pandemic and their efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
Former U.S. senator Joe Donnelly said more than 8.3 million Americans have been infected by the virus and more than 220,000 have died "because of incredibly tragic, failed leadership."
The Trump administration has "devastated our economy that was handed to them, they have worked nonstop to take away our health care, and we're in a pandemic that they have fumbled from the start," Donnelly said. He said Trump and Pence have caused a "madcap national nightmare."
Pence arrived in Fort Wayne aboard Air Force Two. His wife, Karen, was to have flown separately to Indiana on Thursday, according to a staff member. The Pences are scheduled to vote today in Indianapolis.