ANDERSON, S.C. (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence told South Carolina conservatives Monday night that another four years for the Trump administration is a far better choice than anything the Democratic Party might offer from its nomination race.
“Have faith in the American people,” Pence told about 3,000 people attending a fundraising barbecue in the town of Anderson. “When the American people are given a choice between more freedom and more government, they’ll choose freedom every time.”
Pence spoke at the Faith and Freedom BBQ, an annual fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, one of the more conservative members of South Carolina’s congressional delegation. Organizers tout the event as the state’s largest annual gathering for conservatives, who packed out a civic center for plates of barbecue, cole slaw and homemade ice cream.
Other speakers Monday included Duncan, Gov. Henry McMaster and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, as well as U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.
Pence said that South Carolina — 55% of its voters backed Donald Trump in 2016 — is a beneficiary of military victories and economic successes pledged by Trump during his campaign.
“It’s been two and a half years of promises made and promises kept. We’re just getting started, South Carolina,” Pence said. “With God’s help, we will keep America great.”
Pence visited the state in March to help Graham kick off his reelection bid. On Monday night, Graham playfully swiped at the president, with whom he said he got off to a “rocky start.”
“I’ve come to like the president, admire the president,” said Graham, who frequently sparred with Trump when both sought the 2016 nomination but now counts as an ally and frequent golfing partner. “He likes himself, so we’ve got a lot in common. … This is a hell of a country, and we’re not going to give it over to a bunch of socialists.”
To applause and cheers, Graham also told the crowd, “If you’re not here to support Trump/Pence, you came to the wrong place.”
Before the program, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who is mulling a primary challenge to Trump, worked the room, speaking with attendees and calling for a conversation on what he sees as the ignored topic of the national deficit.
Sanford visited the early-voting state of New Hampshire earlier this month, where he said he felt he got “another greenlight” in terms of making a decision to challenge Trump. The former 1st District congressman, who is set to visit Iowa this week, has said he will take until Labor Day to make his decision.
As Sanford spoke with reporters, attendees waving Trump/Pence signs surrounded him, some chanting, “Trump! Trump!” and “Go take a hike,” a reference to Sanford’s 2009 disappearance to visit a mistress in Argentina while telling his gubernatorial staff he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Earlier Monday, Pence visited a metal fabrication business to promote the proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.
“The USMCA is a win for South Carolina,” Pence said at Sargent Metal. “It’s a win for the United States. And it’s going to strengthen our economy and strengthen our hand on the world stage. It’s time to get it done.”
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP