Vowing to bring “peace and security to cities across America,” Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday carried the Trump campaign’s message of law and order to exurban Pennsylvania, a battleground state where Pence warned of a descent into chaos in big cities should presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden be elected.
At a “cops for Trump” rally outside in Greensburg, Pence warned of rising violence in cities, castigated Democrats’ calls to defund police and framed November’s election as being about safety and security. The theme is emerging as a key Trump campaign message that plays on the violence that has cropped up alongside demonstrations and unrest after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“When Democrats call for defunding police, remember what’s at stake: law and order, safety and the peace of mind that you and your family and your children have every right to enjoy as citizens of the greatest nation on Earth,” Pence told the crowd in southwestern Pennsylvania, about 24 miles (15 km) southeast of Pittsburgh.
Pence lauded President Donald Trump’s “leadership” in sending federal law enforcement officers to cities, repeatedly touted the Trump administration’s commitment to “back the blue” and ticked off figures of shootings and murders in cities from Philadelphia to Tulsa.
“Men and women of Pennsylvania, this has got to stop,” Pence said. “We must restore law and order to the streets of our communities for every American of every race and creed and color. But the truth is those heartwrenching numbers are just a preview of Joe Biden’s agenda. The truth is you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”
Biden, he said, would “double down on the very policies that are leading to violence on the streets of America’s cities.” But sending federal officers to cities “is going to bring peace and security to cities across America,” Pence said.
Democrats responding to Pence’s visit to Pennsylvania — a premier battleground that Trump narrowly flipped after six straight Democratic victories there in presidential elections — focused on what they called the Trump administration’s botched coronavirus response and lack of leadership.
“Right now, as southwestern Pennsylvania struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic — and countless Pennsylvanian families and communities deal with grief and anxiety — the very last thing the hard-working men and women in the region need is another Mike Pence photo-op,” Biden’s campaign said in a statement.
Recent polls in Pennsylvania, like polls nationally, show Biden ahead of Trump. Still, most polls in the state in 2016 also showed Democrat Hillary Clinton with an advantage over Trump before his base came together in the final weeks of the campaign, cementing a win of 44,000 votes, or less than 1 percentage point.
Biden, in any case, has not joined the cal l of protesters who demanded “defund the police” after Floyd’s killing. Rather, he has proposed more money for police, conditioned to improvements in their practices.
Specifically, he is calling for a $300 million infusion into existing federal community policing grant programs, adding up to more money for police.
In addition, Pence’s claim of “years of plummeting crime rates under President Trump” also isn’t quite right. It is true that FBI statistics show the violent crime rate was slightly higher in 2015 than in 2018, the most recent year recorded. But it was also lower in 2014 than it was in 2018.
Police departments reported 368.9 violent crimes per 100,000 people in 2018, compared with 361.6 in 2014 and 373.7 in 2015.
The murder rate was 5 people per 100,000 in 2018. That rate was lower every year from 2010 to 2015, although higher in 2016 and 2017.