Vice President Mike Pence accepted renomination Wednesday night in a “Star-Spangled” address to the Republican National Convention, calling for an end to violent street protests and warning that Democrats would destroy the economic gains from President Trump’s proven formula of slashing taxes and red tape.
“The choice in this election has never been clearer, and the stakes have never been higher,” Mr. Pence said. “It’s not so much whether America will be more conservative or more liberal, more Republican or more Democrat. The choice in this election is whether America remains America.”
He said, “Their agenda is based on government control; our agenda is based on freedom.”
Speaking from the historic battlements of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, the birthplace of the national anthem, Mr. Pence also reinforced the administration’s accomplishments in fighting the COVID-19 public health emergency that has defined the election.
“Last week, Joe Biden said ‘no miracle is coming,’” Mr. Pence said of the Democratic nominee. “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.”
As he took the stage, Mr. Pence also addressed Americans endangered by powerful Hurricane Laura, which was making landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border Wednesday overnight. The vice president said the administration is working closely with state authorities and FEMA.
“This is a serious storm,” he said. “Stay safe, and know that we’ll be with you every step of the way to support, rescue, response, and recovery in the days and weeks ahead.”
At the conclusion of Mr. Pence’s address, he and second lady Karen Pence were joined on stage by the president and first lady Melania Trump, who flew on Marine One from Washington in a trip kept quiet by the White House until the last moment.
The vice president’s speech capped the third night of the convention, which featured an emphasis on law and order against a backdrop of rioting and fatal street violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin, amid protests over a police shooting of a Black man.
The president earlier Wednesday ordered nearly 1,000 National Guard troops and 200 federal agents to Kenosha at the request of Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, in an episode that underscored the president’s campaign theme of dealing more firmly with violent protesters.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Mr. Trump “condemns violence in all forms and believes we must protect all Americans from chaos and lawlessness. This is why he is encouraging Democrat governors to request the National Guard and federal law enforcement to augment their local law enforcement efforts.”
Police charged a 17-year-old Illinois man, Kyle Rittenhouse, with the shooting deaths of two protesters in Kenosha on Tuesday night. BuzzFeed reported that Mr. Rittenhouse attended a Trump campaign rally in Iowa in January. Campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said the suspect “had nothing to do with our campaign.”
The shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha police sparked a postponement of all NBA games after players on the Milwaukee Bucks began a boycott. Los Angeles Clippers head coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers accused Mr. Trump and the Republican National Committee of “spewing fear” about Blacks at the convention, saying the country “does not love us back.”
That prompted Trump ally Rudolph W. Giuliani to criticize Mr. Rivers for “seriously misleading the African-American community.”
“The danger of getting shot by a cop is about one-tenth of 1 percent,” Mr. Giuliani said on Fox News Radio. “The danger of being shot and killed by another Black is about 99%.”
Mr. Trump, who is closing the gap in polls against Mr. Biden, will deliver his acceptance speech Thursday night from the White House. He will be introduced by daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump.
Among other convention speakers Wednesday night were former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, and Michael McHale, president of the National Association of Police Organizations, which has endorsed Mr. Trump’s reelection after supporting the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008 and 2012.
“Good officers need to know that their elected leaders and the department brass have their backs,” Mr. McHale said. “The violence we are seeing in these and other cities isn’t happening by chance; it’s the direct result of elected leaders refusing to allow law enforcement to protect our communities.”
The evening also showcased two of the president’s top West Wing advisers: senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, who is leaving her post next week, and Ms. McEnany, who shared her personal story of undergoing a mastectomy in 2018 to prevent the likelihood of breast cancer.
But the marquee speech was delivered by Mr. Pence, 61, the president’s unflaggingly loyal running mate who is considered a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
He touched on themes of school choice, right to life and the momentous decision facing voters who are at a “crossroads of freedom.”
“President Trump set our nation on a path to freedom and opportunity from the very first day of this administration,” Mr. Pence said. “But Joe Biden would set America on a path of socialism and decline.”
He said Mr. Trump “sees America for what it is … a nation that has done more good in this world than any other … a nation that deserves far more gratitude than grievance … and if you want a president who falls silent when our heritage is demeaned or insulted … then he’s not your man.”
The vice president has been a workhorse of the campaign even during the coronavirus crisis, making 75 trips to 27 states since October. He also has embarked on 11 campaign bus tours since November, including four in the crucial battleground state of Pennsylvania and three in Michigan, according to the vice president’s office.
When he attended the Republican National Convention’s roll call of delegates in North Carolina on Monday, Mr. Pence chided Democrats for warning that democracy is on the ballot in the November election.
“The economy is on the ballot, law and order is on the ballot, our most cherished ideas are on the ballot, which is why we need to reelect President Donald J. Trump,” Mr. Pence said.
On Wednesday night, the vice president appealed for national unity after weeks of protests against police brutality that have riven several major cities from New York to Seattle. He made the case, as he has repeatedly in “Back the Blue” rallies with police officers, that Americans can support the Black community and law enforcement simultaneously.
He said the administration can stand up for law enforcement and again deliver the lowest unemployment rate in history for Black Americans, instead of following the calls by some on the left to defund police departments.
“The hard truth is … you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” Mr. Pence said. “Under President Trump, we will stand with those who stand on the thin blue line, and we’re not going to defund the police — not now, not ever.”
Referring to the Democratic National Convention, Mr. Pence said, “Last week, Joe Biden didn’t say one word about the violence and chaos engulfing cities across this country. Let me be clear: the violence must stop — whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha.”
“Too many heroes have died defending our freedoms to see Americans strike each other down,” he said. “We will have law and order on the streets of America.”
In mid-July, Mr. Pence visited Wisconsin and noted that the city of Milwaukee had a 50% increase in nonfatal shootings and 100% rise in homicides from the same time last year.
“This is a frightening preview of Joe Biden’s agenda in action,” he said at the time.
Clarence Henderson, a civil rights activist who participated in the sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960, said Wednesday night that Mr. Trump “has done more for Black Americans in four years than Joe Biden has done in 50.”
“There are African-American voters all over the country who the media is trying to convince to conform to the same old Democratic talking points,” Mr. Henderson said. “You know what that will get you? The same old results.”
Mr. Pence delivered his convention address in front of a live audience at the flag-adorned Fort McHenry, a national monument where Americans defended Baltimore from a British bombardment in the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“My fellow Americans, we are going through a time of testing,” Mr. Pence said. “But if you look through the fog of these challenging times, you will see … our flag is still there.”
The vice president paid tribute in his speech to essential workers during the pandemic. He singled out two in the audience as examples of the convention’s theme of America as a “land of heroes.”
He also drew a sharp contrast between the president’s economic and foreign policies and Mr. Biden’s plans that he said would raise taxes, increase regulations and revive his role as “a cheerleader for communist China.”
Mr. Pence said Mr. Biden’s trade policies would reverse the “America First” gains achieved under Mr. Trump’s more confrontational approach.
“On Nov. 3, ask yourself: Who do you trust to rebuild this economy? A career politician who presided over the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression? Or a proven leader who created the greatest economy in the world?” Mr. Pence said.
Republican strategist Chris Wilson, CEO of WPA Intelligence, said Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence have been forced by the pandemic and economic shutdowns to run a different campaign from the typical incumbents.
“He’s still in a position where almost no one would say, ‘I want things to stay the way they are right now,’” said Mr. Wilson, who noted that polls show less than 20% of voters believe the country is on the right track.
He said the campaign is engaged in a “pivot to a comparison of two agendas: a Trump agenda that has already produced a massive economic recovery and has the right plans to create another, and a Biden socialist plan that could destroy the American economy for a long time.”
Mr. Pence’s speech was preceded by an address from Mrs. Pence, as part of another night of outreach to female voters.
The speaking schedule included three Republican House members, Dan Crenshaw of Texas, and Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin of New York; and two Republican senators, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Joni Ernst of Iowa. Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota also spoke, as did retired college football coach Lou Holtz.
Sister Deirdre “Dede” Byrne of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary praised Mr. Trump’s commitment to the unborn and the pro-life cause.
“Donald Trump is the most pro-life president that this nation has ever had, defending life at all stages,” she said. “His belief in the sanctity of life transcends politics.”
⦁ S.A. Miller contributed to this report.