Thursday, July 19, 2018
Politics

Lights go out on Mike Pence in Clearwater

CLEARWATER — If his campaign plane skidding off the runway in New York last week didn't faze Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a power outage at his rally in Clearwater on Monday night couldn't either.

When the lights and microphone went out inside a hangar at the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, Pence got his hands on a megaphone and continued to make his case for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, delivering lines that had the crowd chanting "U.S.A.!" and "Drain the swamp!"

Trump's running mate said no one should believe Democrat Hillary Clinton's "air of inevitability" that last week fueled speculation about who she would pick as Cabinet members.

"I tell you: Don't be fooled," he told an enthusiastic crowd of 1,500 or more. "This race is on."

Pence's first public campaign appearance in the Tampa Bay area comes as GOP spirits rose after the FBI's decision to look into emails found on a computer that belonged to Anthony Weiner, estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, and both campaigns poured more resources into the Interstate 4 corridor, the pivot on which Florida elections tilt.

"This election just isn't a choice between two people," Pence said. "It's a choice between two futures. So let me tell you where I stand. I choose a stronger America. I choose a more prosperous America. I choose an America that stands by our vital constitutional principles. I choose to stand with Donald Trump."

For the better part of an hour, Pence attacked Clinton's record as secretary of state, her use of a private email server, the national media's coverage and President Barack Obama's foreign and domestic policy.

As they waited to file into the hangar before his speech, Pence's supporters echoed the same fears of a Clinton administration.

Ariel Dastamanis, 26, of Bradenton, held up target sheets with Clinton's face behind a bull's-eye, selling them as "two for $5." Other vendors were selling T-shirts, bumper stickers, buttons and merchandise that read "Hillary for Prison" and "Delete Hillary."

Trump is "the only candidate I've seen that, if he loses, he said he'll pay for it out of his own pockets," Dastamanis said. "He's going to bring jobs back. Hillary, she just wants to be the first woman president."

James Flynn, 72, said he hasn't always voted Republican and used to be what he calls "a Kennedy Democrat." But he considers Clinton a career politician and is enthusiastic about a president that has come from outside of the establishment.

"Trump has a lot of the same values I have like patriotism, gun ownership, I'd say he'd protect the Constitution," said Flynn, a Vietnam War veteran. "He's a law and order guy."

Nancy Jerome, 58, of Tampa, pinned a "build that wall" sign to her pink baseball hat and waved a "Make America Great Again" poster as she waited her turn to get in the hangar.

Jerome said she believes some of Trump's comments about women and minorities have been exaggerated, and his qualifications as a businessman outweigh personal flaws. Her biggest concern this election is the economy, making her vote the most important she's cast in her lifetime, she said.

"We need a strong person representing the United States making good trade deals," she said. "No political person is 100 percent without controversy. Look at President Kennedy. Look at President Clinton."

Earlier in the day, Pence courted voters at the Space Coast Convention Center in Cocoa, promising to focus NASA on exploring deep space, expanding public-private partnerships and relaunching the national space policy council.

   
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