CLEVELAND (BP) — Vice presidential nominee Mike Pence made a social conservative’s case for Donald Trump on the Republican National Convention’s third day, but the GOP runner-up — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — grabbed the spotlight by refusing to endorse his party’s nominee.
Pence, 57, accepted the Republican nomination for vice president Wednesday evening (July 20) and offered reasons the lightning-rod billionaire should be trusted over presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The Indiana governor made his case, however, after a wave of boos ushered Cruz off the stage in a development that assured Pence’s speech would be eclipsed in the convention’s latest news cycle.
Cruz — whom Pence endorsed before his state’s primary in May — urged Republicans to “vote your conscience” in November but mentioned Trump’s name only to congratulate the nominee. Some delegates shouted, “Endorse Trump,” late in Cruz’s speech. Many booed him near the end of or after his remarks, providing the latest evidence of the divisiveness that marked the GOP’s selection process this year.
Admitting his speech would serve as his introduction to the country, Pence repeated to the delegates his common description of himself, “I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”
Pence, a six-term congressman before being elected governor in 2012, did not focus on his pro-life and other socially conservative positions, but they surfaced when he spoke about the significance of the Supreme Court this year.
“As this election approaches, every American should know that while we are filling the presidency for the next four years, this election will define the Supreme Court for the next 40,” Pence said. “We all better think very carefully, very carefully about what this means for our Constitution and limited government. Elect Hillary Clinton, and you better get used to being subject to unelected judges using unaccountable power to take unconstitutional actions.
“For the sake of the rule of law, for the sake of the sanctity of life, for the sake of our Second Amendment and for the sake of all our other God-given liberties, we must ensure that the next president appointing justices to the Supreme Court is Donald Trump,” Pence said.
The father of three referenced King Solomon’s prayer from 1 Kings 3:9 in promising, if elected, “to pray daily for a wise and discerning heart, for who is able to govern this great people of Yours without it?”
Pence, said Southern Baptist cultural commentator Bruce Ashford, “delivered a strong address intended to achieve what he was brought onto the ticket to accomplish: help religious and social conservatives feel comfortable voting for Donald Trump.”
While Trump’s selection of Pence was “a good one,” it can also be interpreted as a warning, said Ashford, provost and professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Trump chose Pence because Pence is a religious conservative, an establishment guy, and known for his solid stances on abortion and religious liberty,” Ashford told Baptist Press in written comments.
“But it is also a warning sign,” he said. “Trump chose Pence because Trump himself is not a religious conservative or an establishment candidate, and is not known for solid stances on some of the matters most central to evangelical concern.”
In Trump, Pence told delegates, “You have nominated a man for president who never quits, who never backs down — a fighter, a winner.”
The election of Clinton — formerly secretary of State under President Obama, U.S. senator and first lady — would ensure continuation of the flawed domestic and foreign policies of the current White House, Pence said.
“The choice couldn’t be more clear: Americans can elect someone who literally personifies the failed establishment in Washington D.C., or we can choose a leader who will fight every day to make America great again,” he said.
‘Vote your conscience’
Cruz, also a social conservative, urged Americans not to “stay home in November” but spoke only in general terms of the kind of candidates they should support, with a hint that might not include Trump.
“We deserve leaders who stand for principle, who unite us all behind shared values, who cast aside anger for love,” Cruz told delegates. “That is the standard we should expect from everybody.”
Americans who love their country and their children, he said, should “stand and speak and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”
In an appearance before the Texas delegation Thursday morning (July 21), Cruz defended his refusal to endorse Trump. He again declined to commit to vote for the GOP nominee but said he would not vote for Clinton, according to The Washington Post. He asked them not to write in his name in November.
When asked why he reneged on his pledge to support the Republican nominee, Cruz said Trump invalidated the promise when the billionaire made personal attacks on his wife and hinted his father played a part in the assassination of President Kennedy.
Pence made at least one significant misstep as Indiana’s governor in the eyes of many religious freedom advocates and social conservatives. He signed into law last year a revised version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that increased protections for pastors, churches and nonprofit religious organizations but not businesses regarding participation in such events as same-sex weddings.