SIMI VALLEY, California — Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence, governor of Indiana, drew parallels Thursday morning between Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan, casting Trump as the inheritor of Reagan’s political legacy.
Though there were differences in style between Reagan and Trump, “at the very heart of Donald Trump’s campaign for president is the same impatience, the same dissatisfaction with the status quo,” and the “same confidence in the boundless potential of the American people to set things right,” Pence said.
“I will tell you, knowing my running mate … there are fundamental similarities between these two men,” Pence said, citing honesty, toughness, and belief in America’s core principles.
Pence told a packed hall at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library that he had once been a Democrat — a “community organizer, truth be told,” he joked — before being inspired by Reagan’s ideas and his example.
He recalled meeting Reagan in the White House in 1988 as a 29-year-old candidate for Congress from Indiana. “This man’s the reason I became a Republican,” Pence recalled telling his wife as they waited to meet the president, saying that introducing himself to Reagan felt like he “shook hands with Mount Rushmore.”
That inspiration, Pence said, continued when he became governor of Indiana in 2012, when he learned from his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, who had worked for Reagan and conveyed the lessons of his leadership.
Pence declared “It’s exactly that kind of leadership that Donald Trump is going to bring to Washington, D.C.”
He recalled that the media “mocked and dismissed” Reagan as a “simpleton” and “little more than a celebrity and an entertainer who entered politics late in life.”
“Sound familiar?” he asked, to chuckles from the audience.
But “soon, something amazing began to happen,” Pence said, as Reagan drew support from across the political spectrum.
“They heard the unmistakable sound of a man unbound by Washington niceties … Ronald Reagan spoke the truth to the American people, just like Donald Trump has.”
Reagan had the “courage of his convictions,” Pence said, and was clear about whom he was fighting for, and against. And as willing as he was to confront the Soviet Union, he was also willing to listen personally to its leader — even if only to “whisper in his ear, ‘Nyet’ [No].'”
Pence said that we should start saying “no” to military cuts, to ransom payments to Iran, to a sputtering economy, and to “anyone who says the American dream is dead.”
Trump, like Reagan, he said, had the “toughness” to say “no” to anyone standing in the way of rebuilding the country and its economy.
Times were similar to the circumstances in which Reagan was elected, Pence said, when Americans were being denied the kind of government they deserved.
“The American people picked a bold truth-teller in 1980, and I know they are going to pick a bold truth-teller in 2016,” he declared.
“Donald Trump, like Ronald Reagan, will rebuild America’s military,” he added, with a view to the 15th anniversary of 9/11 on Sunday. “America will once again be known as the arsenal of democracy.”
He also spoke about Trump’s policies on the economy and trade, promising to re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and decline the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
He also attacked Hillary Clinton for targeting jobs in the coal industry, and called her the “most dishonest” person ever to run for the presidency. He quoted President Harry S. Truman, a Democrat: “An honest person can’t become rich in politics.”
And Pence promised that Trump would appoint conservative, constitutionalist judges “from the Supreme Court on down.”
“Ronald Reagan’s and Donald Trump’s views on the Supreme Court are not similar — they are identical,” he said.
He closed by observing: “Something big is stirring in our country, and it’s coming from the American people.” He said that the spirit that propelled Reagan into office is alive again in the movement that has been inspired by Trump’s campaign.
Seeming to choke back tears, Pence recalled how Reagan declined credit for turning America around: “The American people decided to right the ship, and I was just the captain on the bridge when they did it,” he recalled Reagan saying to him.
If we put the right captain on the bridge again, Pence said, “I know we will make America great again.”
“Let me promise you: Come November 8th, you will see, the Reagan Revolution lives on.”
Following his address, Pence took two questions from the audience. One referred to the Clinton Foundation, and Hillary Clinton’s practice of using what Pence called a “vehicle” for foreign donations while she was Secretary of State. “The day of pay-for-play politics in Washington, D.C. are over the day Donald Trump becomes president, he said.”
The other asked: “What is the biggest misconception about Donald Trump?” Pence answered that Trump showed grace and kindness, especially with friends and family, despite a combative public persona.
Pence, who was warmly received by the audience — “It is a joy, it is a privilege, to be in Reagan Country,” he told them — has been visiting California on a two-day fundraising trip.
He held fundraisers in Newport Beach and La Jolla on Wednesday, and was scheduled to hold a fundraiser in Los Angeles later on Thursday.
This article has been updated to correct typographical errors.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.