VOL. 133 | NO. 144 | Monday, July 23, 2018
Pence Touts Conservative Credentials of Blackburn, Black
The Associated Press
CLEVELAND, Tenn. (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence touted Republican tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks Saturday, using a visit to Tennessee to also heap praise on the conservative credentials of two GOP congresswomen waging tough campaigns for statewide offices.
In a state that overwhelmingly backed President Donald Trump in 2016, Pence promoted Trump's record on the economy, border security, defense spending and the selection of conservative judges.
The vice president also took time in his half-hour speech to praise U.S. Reps. Diane Black and Marsha Blackburn, who are hoping to lead the statewide GOP ticket this fall. Black and Blackburn joined the vice president on stage to trumpet the Republican administration's work. Trump has endorsed Blackburn in the Senate race but has not formally backed a candidate in the GOP primary for governor, where Black is one of four leading contenders.
Pence praised Black for her "great leadership" for supporting tax cuts and pushing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the health care law championed by former President Barack Obama. Pence referred to Black as "a champion for life" for her stand against abortion.
He referred to Blackburn as a "tireless, principled" leader and a "strong partner" to Trump's administration.
"Tennessee is blessed to have her fighting for you ... in our nation's capital," he said.
Pence's comments come less than two weeks before Tennessee's Aug. 2 primary election. Early voting runs through July 28.
Black is part of a crowded field of Republican candidates running to succeed Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Other GOP candidates include state House Speaker Beth Harwell, businessman Bill Lee and ex-state economic development commissioner and businessman Randy Boyd.
Blackburn is the leading GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate and faces a tough fall campaign against Democrat Phil Bredesen, a former Tennessee governor. They are running to replace Sen. Bob Corker, a two-term Republican who is not seeking re-election. In the GOP primary, Blackburn faces Murfreesboro truck driver Aaron L. Pettigrew.
After Pence's speech, Bredesen's campaign said voters are tired of hyper-partisanship and "finger-pointing" among political leaders.
"The contrast between the Senate candidates is increasingly clear," Bredesen spokeswoman Alyssa Hansen said in a statement. "Tennessee voters can pick an eight-term congresswoman who's been causing gridlock in Washington for the past decade and a half or they can hire someone who is an independent thinker and has a proven track record of working across the aisle to get things done for Tennessee."
Meanwhile, Pence defended the president's tough trade policies in a state that relies heavily on exports — from the farm to factories and whiskey distilleries. Some farmers and business leaders have expressed misgivings about Trump's aggressive approach on tariffs.
The vice president claimed the Trump administration is making progress in getting better trade deals. Trump's negotiating tactics have included slapping tariffs on some of the U.S.'s top trading partners, spurring a series of retaliatory duties by those countries.
But Pence told the Tennessee audience: "We're going to get better deals for what we grow and what we make."
He also defended Trump's widely criticized trip to meet with leaders in Europe, referring to it as "successful."
As for Trump's highly controversial meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pence said: "President Trump will always be willing to pursue peace. But at this White House, it will always be peace through strength."
Pence said the Republican-backed tax cuts have put more money in the pockets of working Americans. He also said lower taxes and regulatory rollbacks have triggered business activity leading to more jobs.
"Confidence is back, jobs are coming back," he said. "In a word, America is back, and we're just getting started."
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