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With under two weeks until the presidential election, Vice President Mike Pence returned to his home state of Indiana to speak to his and President Donald Trump’s supporters.
Pence spoke for just over an hour to a crowd of around 400 to 500 supporters Oct. 22 at Fort Wayne Aero Center, giving a stump speech focused on his and the president’s plans for a second term while arguing against the election of Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Tessa McKenney, junior advertising major and vice president of Ball State College Democrats, said Indiana’s Electoral College votes going to former President Barack Obama and Biden in the 2008 presidential election could have contributed to why Pence stopped in Indiana.
“Mike Pence is visiting Indiana as a last-minute campaign effort to maintain the Trump voter base here in the Midwest,” McKenney said. “Trump's campaign is not doing well nationally and must campaign across the country to maintain the presidency.”
Chad Kinsella, Ball State political science professor, said the primary focus of campaign stops like this is to drive turnout as much as possible among the base of the candidate.
At this point in the race, turnout and last-minute fundraising are the key factors in the success of the campaign, he said.
“We're probably approaching close to 100 percent of people who have already made up their mind,” Kinsella said. “I would even say the last debate that they had was probably totally unnecessary at that point because most people had made up their mind.”
Pence’s visit to Indiana — which Trump won with 56.9 percent of the vote in 2016, according to Ballotpedia — was likely a move to maximize Republican turnout in the region, Kinsella said. Fort Wayne’s relative closeness to the southern Michigan and westen Ohio media markets also made it a logical stop for the campaign, even though Indiana is likely not a battleground state in 2020.
Pence’s speech was preceded by remarks from Indiana Congressman Jim Banks, Louisiana Congressman and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, who all received re-election endorsements from the vice president.
The confirmation of Trump’s third Supreme Court associate justice in the form of Amy Coney Barrett, whose nomination was confirmed by a 52-48 Senate vote Oct. 27, was a major talking point in Pence’s speech.
Pence responded to a criticism leveled against Coney Barrett’s faith by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein during Coney Barrett’s 2017 confirmation hearing in which Feinstein told Coney Barrett “the dogma lives loudly in you.”
“That dogma lives loudly in me too,” Pence told the crowd to cheers.
Reopening the American economy was a core argument Pence made for his and the president’s re-election campaign. He also said the White House’s handling of the coronavirus has been a success.
“Before the end of this year, we’re going to have the first safe and effective coronavirus vaccine with tens of millions of doses for the American people,” he said.
Ball State student and Student Government Association president pro tempore Dylan Lewandowski attended the rally with several other Ball State students. As a member of the Ball State College Republicans, Lewandowski said Trump’s “Make America Great Again” version of modern conservatism is more than a slogan to him.
“It’s more of a lifestyle for people who want to see America returned to a nation that is respected not just by citizens of the United States, but on a world scale,” Lewandowski said.
McKenney said she disapproved of Pence's campaign stop in Fort Wayne and said it was irresponsible during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Several staff members around the vice president have tested positive for the coronavirus, but Pence is still campaigning, putting his staff and the American people more at risk,” McKenney said. “Pence's actions further represent the reckless disregard for our health and safety during the pandemic demonstrated by the Trump administration and Republican Party at large.”
McKenney said Ball State College Democrats engaged in voter registration efforts earlier this school year to encourage college students to vote for Biden.
“I am incredibly hopeful for Democratic change in the 2020 election on both the presidential and local level,” McKenney said. “Young people are showing up at the polls and voting early to express their discontent with the last four years. The results of this election are crucial to determine the path of the future for our country. Change in 2020 is vital for the survival of our Democracy.”
Election Day this year is Nov. 3, though registered voters can vote early until Nov. 2.
Grace McCormick contributed to this article.