In Atlanta, Pence warns conservatives of spread of ‘socialism’

Vice President Mike Pence was interrupted by several ovations at a conservative convention Friday in Atlanta as he laced into Democratic leaders with warnings that their “socialist” ideals could jeopardize the nation’s future.

The Republican took repeated swipes at Democratic 2020 hopefuls at the Resurgent Gathering, earning loud applause as he described the candidates lining up to challenge President Donald Trump as leftists who promote un-American policies.

“Those people were standing so far on the left, I thought that stage was going to flip over,” Pence said of the series of Democratic debates held this week. “Seriously, today’s Democratic Party is dominated by left-wing liberals.”

He added: “The moment America becomes a socialist country is the moment America ceases to be America.”

By painting his political adversaries as socialists, the vice president is echoing the most popular Republican attack line ahead of next year’s election. They have assailed Democrats, including some 2020 candidates, who back Medicare for All and a more aggressive approach to climate change.

His speech came as about 1,000 delegates gathered a few miles down the road for the Democratic Socialists of America convention in downtown Atlanta to discuss the group's future and chart out plans to support U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2020 bid for president.

>> Related: Georgia democratic socialists pledge to step it up in 2020

>> Podcast: In Atlanta, Pence warns of 'socialism' as local democratic socialists aim higher

The political movement is also enjoying growing momentum, buoyed by last year’s midterm elections and a leftward tilt among some top-tier candidates who embrace liberal issues that would have seemed unthinkable not long ago.

Democrats, meanwhile, often stress that even the most liberal of their ranks don’t endorse the policies that define socialism, such as the state ownership of resources and collective control over the means of production.

Pence deviated little from his stump speech to the crowd of several hundred activists at the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead. He drew sustained applause for highlighting Trump’s agenda, such as appointing two conservatives to the U.S. Supreme Court.

One of the loudest bursts came when Pence praised Gov. Brian Kemp, whom he supported in last year’s Republican runoff, for signing strict new anti-abortion legislation into law. That measure, which could restrict some abortions as early as six weeks, is facing a federal court challenge.

“The forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more,” Pence said. “This economy is booming, and the American people know it. I know you don’t have to see the statistics to know it.”

The event was organized by Erick Erickson, the conservative pundit and host on News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB who banned Trump from attending a similar gathering in 2015 that attracted several Republican residential candidates.

That's in the rear-view mirror: Erickson has long since abandoned the "Dump Trump" mantra and he recently endorsed the president's 2020 bid.

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