As Pence has done since 2016, he sought to stand behind Trump and signal his support – but without repeating what the president said. He smiled at both songs but did not address them directly.
He urged the two crowds to fight for “every legitimate vote” to be counted and for “every illegal vote” to be discarded without calling the election rigged, as Trump has done. Nor did he support other baseless theories – such as allegations of a far-reaching conspiracy involving a dead Venezuelan president ̵
He referred to the Bible and struck a happy-warrior social-conservative behavior without any of the anger Trump has unleashed in all-caps tweets in the weeks since an election they lost. He went on to say that the president would fight to make America great again without acknowledging that he had been defeated.
“We may not know what the future holds, but we know who has the future,” Pence said in Gainesville, repeatedly urging crowds to pray. “Pray for America.”
Back in Washington, Trump erroneously declared from the White House rostrum on Friday that he had won the 2020 election; spellbound Michigan lawmakers in an attempt to change voters; accused drug companies of delaying a vaccine to harm his presidential bid; believed that Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) was the subject of a fair-and-square “slaughter” of President Barack Obama in 2012; and spread a number of wild claims about the election.
He also targeted elected officials in Georgia, where Republican Secretary of State on Friday certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory after a hand count.
“The governor of Georgia and Secretary of State are refusing to let us look at signatures that will reveal hundreds of thousands of illegal ballots and give the Republican Party and me, David Perdue, and maybe Kelly Loeffler, a BIG SEG,” Trump tweeted Friday.
Pence was focused on another topic – campaigning on behalf of Sen. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler facing a run-off election in January – and did not mention any of his events in Georgia to Biden or any dissatisfaction with officials. He greeted the Government of Georgia Brian Kemp (R) warmly at the airport.
“It’s great to be in Peach State,” he said at a meeting.
Allies say Pence is 100 percent loyal to Trump, but also keeps an eye on his own political future, which could be complicated by a week-long battle for the election or a Trump statement that he is running again.
Pence has kept a lower profile in recent weeks as Trump has waged war against the election results and is becoming more and more cheeky in his attempts to overthrow the result. He has tried to support the president publicly without mirroring his rhetoric; on election night, Trump declared that they won, while Pence did not.
Helpers have tried to focus on other topics, such as the coronavirus vaccine effort, and some Pence advisers have become increasingly dissatisfied with the president’s ongoing campaign. He is expected to return to Georgia several times, his team says, while aides say Trump is less interested in a trip.
The day of traditional campaign travel – short stub talks, lavish introductions, country music and long bus rides – also highlighted the riddle of Pence and GOP. The bid was to drive GOP turnout for Loeffler and Perdue, who need to win on Jan. 5 so Republicans can hold on to a two-seat majority in the Senate.
Most voters were apparently most enthusiastic about Trump, but wearing his gear, chanted his name and showed off his bumper stickers. “We love Trump!” spectators in Gainesville. Pence promised to return and tell the president that they were sending their best. He was repeatedly interrupted with singing for Trump to remain in office.
Pence used the same wording in both events: “We will continue to fight until every legal vote is counted. We continue to fight until every illegal vote is cast. Whatever the future holds, we will never stop fighting to make America great again. ”
When some in the crowd shouted “Stop the steal”, Perdue offered “Hold the line” – seemingly meaningful Senate, but open to interpretation.
Meanwhile, the trio tried to convince voters of the importance of the special Senate election.
“They get the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives,” Perdue said at one point, arguing to the crowd why they needed to keep Republicans in the Senate majority.
Pence said, “We need Georgia to defend the majority.” He did not mention that the GOP had already won 50 seats – and if Trump were to actually retain the presidency, they would have a majority with Pence’s uninterrupted vote.
He often talked about the Trump presidency in the past, but also used lines that sounded similar to his own campaign speeches.
“Our agenda is American greatness. Their agenda is American decline, ”Pence said. “We are in the miracle industry,” he said of an expected coronavirus vaccine, not to mention the 250,000 people in the country who have died. “Friends do not let friends vote alone,” he said of the election.
In some ways, Pence did what some of the president’s advisers wish Trump would do. He boasted that Trump won more than 73 million votes and a greater proportion of non-white voters than in 2016. He proclaimed some of the president’s achievements, such as getting Supreme Court justices confirmed, cutting taxes and rules, and moving the U.S. embassy. Israel to Jerusalem. They got chants, but his last words in North Georgia drew the bigger reaction.
“Stay in the fight,” he said, leaving the stage in Gainesville for “Only in America” by Brooks & Dunn. “For the sake of the integrity of this election.”