WILMINGTON, N.C. – Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence called on his supporters to “respectfully ensure the integrity of the vote” on Nov. 8 at a rally in North Carolina Tuesday, a contrast to his running mate Donald Trump’s repeated, unsubstantiated claim that the election is “rigged.”
“States manage and operate elections and we have procedures and policies in place where you can respectfully participate in preserving accountability on Election Day,” said Pence, the governor of Indiana. “Vigilance is the price of freedom and honest democracy.”
Speaking outside the White House earlier Tuesday, President Barack Obama emphasized that states, including those with Republican governors, administer elections and said he would advise Trump to “stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes.”
Pence, appearing in this battleground state on the eve of the third and final presidential debate, got a strong reaction from the crowd after accusing the media of intentionally omitting coverage of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s email scandals. It’s “not a fair fight,” he insisted. Even so, Pence read aloud, verbatim, the front page of USA Today’s coverage of Clinton’s “quid pro quo” State Department allegations to jeering from the audience.
“The media is out there doing half of Hillary Clinton’s work for her every day,” he said. “And the amazing thing is Donald Trump is still winning hearts and minds every day. While they chase after every attack against my running mate, they continue to ignore an avalanche of documented email evidence of duplicity.”
While Clinton has climbed steadily in the polls since the first presidential debate, North Carolina has remained close. The Real Clear Politics website polling average has Clinton up less than three points in the state, while she leads by seven points nationally.
Some voters in the crowded convention center seemed split on embracing Trump’s sentiment of a “rigged” election.
“I don’t think it’s rigged,” said retired Trump supporter Mike Hill. “It’s a matter of words. Words do matter. But you have to realize [Trump] isn’t a career politician.”
Elaina Nobles from Southport, N.C. was also hesitant to question the integrity of the election, although she said there was a chance things could be unfair.
“With the way that everything is controlled mostly liberal, I think it’s very possible,” Nobles said, sporting a “Make America Great Again” hat. “People are corrupt, so there’s always the possibility for corruption. If someone in control wants Hillary Clinton to win more than Trump, then they’re going to find a way to do that even if that’s not what the people want.”
Ken Thompson, a retired schoolteacher, was more emphatic about his worries for the election. When asked it could be “rigged,” the 65-year-old replied, “I can believe it. I can believe Hillary Clinton will do anything to win this race.” This wouldn’t affect his decision to vote, however, saying he was “voting, definitely.”
Pence said the election was “ultimately” about the majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, since the new president will nominate justices as vacancies occur in coming years. The next president, he said, will have the opportunity to shape law in the United States “for the next 40 years.”
Pence said he planned to “pop some popcorn” in anticipation of Wednesday evening’s presidential debate in Las Vegas, which some pundits say is the last chance for the Trump-Pence ticket to salvage a chance at winning the presidency.