Raleigh, N.C. — Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is more fit to be president than the current occupant of the White House and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, said Thursday in Raleigh.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday called for Republicans to withdraw their support for Trump, saying he is "woefully unprepared" and is "unfit" to lead the United States.
"Barack Obama knows a lot about being woefully unprepared to be president," Pence said during a town hall-style campaign stop at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
Saying "weakness arouses evil," Pence blasted Obama's and Clinton's foreign policy during her time as secretary of state, saying their decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq laid the groundwork for the rise of Islamic State forces and an expansion of terrorist attacks.
"We can't have four more years of apologizing to and accommodating the demands of enemies of our freedom," he told a cheering audience. "Donald Trump will stand up for the security of the American people. He will confront those who threaten us."
He also criticized the domestic policies under Obama, noting the U.S. economy continues to struggle while the economies of Indiana and North Carolina have thrived under the leadership of Pence and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.
"The American people are tired of hearing this is as good as it gets," Pence said. "It's not the best we can do; it's the best (Democratic leaders) can do."
During his hour-long appearance, Pence answered questions about voter ID, government spending and health care for veterans, among others. An 11-year-old boy also asked whether Pence's role in a Trump administration would be to soften the stances of his frequently bombastic running mate.
"I couldn't be more proud to stand with Donald Trump," Pence told the boy.
Later, in a brief interview with WRAL News, he boiled down the differences between himself and Trump as one of style, not substance.
"Clearly, Donald Trump and I have different styles, but we have exactly the same goals and exactly the same vision," he said, dismissing concerns expressed by several big-name Republicans who have refused to support Trump.
"Donald Trump has connected with everyday Americans more than any other leader in my lifetime since Ronald Reagan," he said. "While some politicians might not be comfortable with his particular style from time to time, the American people hear this man – they hear his heart, they hear his mind – and they know he's going to provide the kind of strong leadership that millions of Americans have been longing to see."
Pence characterized Trump during the town hall as "a doer in a game usually reserved for talkers," one who understands the frustrations of regular people and isn't afraid to stand up to criticism and fight for change. Meanwhile, Clinton "literally personifies a failed establishment," Pence said.
"If you want a president who will upend the status quo in Washington, D.C., and uphold the Constitution of the United States of American, I say this, we have but one choice," he told the crowd. "I believe America is ready to elect Donald Trump."
Pence's appearance came less than 24 hours after Clinton's vice presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, held a rally in Greensboro as the campaigns jockey for position in what is expected to be one of the tightest races nationwide this fall. Former President Bill Clinton is expected to attend private fundraisers in Raleigh and Durham on Friday.
It also marked Pence's first solo foray into North Carolina after stops with Trump in Winston-Salem and Charlotte a week ago. Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest spoke to the Raleigh audience before Pence, but Gov. Pat McCrory didn't attend the event.