Pence talks up Trump to Georgia’s reluctant Republicans

DALTON — On March 1, Donald Trump won 39 percent in Georgia’s GOP primary. Six months later, he sits at 43 percent among all Georgians, as measured by the Real Clear Politics average of polls.

The difference between a strong plurality in a five-man field and a slight deficit against one widely disliked woman is likely the mediocre enthusiasm for Trump among Georgia Republicans. The AJC’s statewide poll in August found Hillary Clinton up by 86 points among Democrats, while Trump led by just 77 points among Republicans. That should have set off alarm bells in Trump Tower.

And maybe it did.

Dalton was the third stop in Georgia this week for Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Like the other stops, Perry (Houston County) and Marietta (Cobb), Whitfield County is a GOP stronghold that wasn’t in the top half of Georgia counties for Trump support in March.

Given a few minutes with Pence afterward, I asked what he’s hearing from Georgia Republicans, and what he’s doing, as someone long held in high esteem by conservatives, to bring more of them (OK, “us”) into the fold.

“I think it’s coming together,” he said. “I think Donald Trump over the last several weeks has been articulating with greater specificity an agenda to get the economy moving again, an agenda to rebuild our military and confront radical Islamic terrorism, an agenda to bring law and order to the streets of our cities, and also an agenda that sees the American Dream as the birthright of every American, regardless of race or creed or color. …”

“I think (all this) is really giving many people who are not yet with us, who would otherwise be prepared to vote for a Republican nominated for the presidency, confidence to come our way. And I sense it: with everyday people in Georgia, but also as I interact with elected officials in the state and around the country.”

I also asked which one issue he would pick as a reason for reluctant Republicans to come around — and told him he couldn’t pick Supreme Court appointments or simply keeping Hillary out of the White House, two reasons we’ve heard for some time now. After reiterating the importance of the Supreme Court, here’s what he said:

“Beyond that, I would just tell you that the message that I have to Republicans is this isn’t a choice between a candidate who will grow America a little bit and one who will grow America a lot. This is a choice between recognizing that the leadership of Barack Obama, which Hillary Clinton wants to continue, has weakened America’s place in the world and stifled America’s economy. And what Donald Trump is offering is that we stop that downward trend, and that we turn around, and that we take America back up in the direction of greater freedom, less taxes, less regulation, a strong military, (being) the arsenal of democracy, willing to stand with our allies and confront those who threaten our freedom.

“It is really a contrast between the failed leadership of the last 7.5 years, and a distinctly American, broad-shouldered leadership at home and abroad, that I think this election is largely about. And with that contrast, I just believe that people that are not there yet, independents and Democrats, and the undecided, are gonna see that contrast, and we’re gonna have a good day in November.”