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Pence Lays Out Choice For Election During 'Time Of Testing'

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Vice President Pence made a case on Wednesday that President Trump "sees America for what it is" and has the track record to bring the country back from what he repeatedly called "a time of testing" — referring to the twin challenges of recovering from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and grappling with protests against racism.

In his keynote address on the third night of the Republican National Convention, Pence argued that Trump — known for painting a dystopian picture of "American carnage" in his inaugural address — has a more optimistic view of the country than his Democratic challenger. Joe Biden last week said he wanted to lead America out of a "season of American darkness" he blamed on Trump.

Pence has made scores of low-key visits to key electoral states since October, even in the past few months amid the pandemic, where he has argued that the November election will be a choice about "whether America remains America" or is "fundamentally transformed" into a place of high taxes and government control.

In Pence's telling, Trump "sees America for what it is: a nation that has done more good in this world than any other, a nation that deserves far more gratitude than grievance," Pence said, depicting Trump as a truth-teller who stands up for what he believes in.

"If you want a president who falls silent when our heritage is demeaned or insulted, then he's not your man," Pence said.

Pence did not name George Floyd, the Black man in Minneapolis whose killing by police officers sparked this summer's protests, nor Jacob Blake, who was shot and seriously wounded by police in Wisconsin on Sunday.

The vice president decried "violence and chaos in the streets of our major cities" and rejected assertions of systemic racism and police bias against minorities, while falsely claiming Biden supports campaigns to defund the police.

"We're a little bit different"

Pence, who is an evangelical Christian and a former Indiana governor believed to have presidential aspirations of his own, has been a bridge between Trump and more traditional Republican and conservative voters.

"We came by very different routes to this partnership, and some people think we're a little bit different," Pence acknowledged. "He does things his own way, on his own terms ... when he has an opinion, he's liable to share it."

Pence said Trump had both "kept things interesting" and "kept his word" on promises to his base on military, national security, trade and the courts.

Pence leads Trump's coronavirus task force, where he spent weeks dutifully plugging guidelines to slow the virus's spread.

Yet at his convention speech, staged at Baltimore's Fort McHenry, about 150 people sat closely together, most without masks. They crowded a rope line at the end of the speech to greet Pence and Trump, who made a surprise entrance at the end. Pence's 87-year-old mother, who lives in Indiana, joined his family in person for the speech.

"Nation of miracles"

Like Trump, Pence has shifted to focus on reviving the economy, which had been the central part of their argument to win reelection before the pandemic struck.

Rather than framing the election as a referendum on their coronavirus response, Pence argues that businessman Trump has a better economic track record than Biden, who has had a long career in Washington.

Pence expressed sympathy to people who have lost family members to the virus. More than 175,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19, though the vice president did not cite that statistic.

He took a hopeful tone that the corner has been turned on the pandemic with a vaccine "on track" for the end of the year — a deadline that many experts have said may not be realistic.

"Last week, Joe Biden said, 'No miracle is coming.' What Joe doesn't seem to understand is that America is a nation of miracles," Pence said.

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Roberta Rampton is NPR's White House editor. She joined the Washington Desk in October 2019 after spending more than six years as a White House correspondent for Reuters. Rampton traveled around America and to more than 20 countries covering President Trump, President Obama and their vice presidents, reporting on a broad range of political, economic and foreign policy topics. Earlier in her career, Rampton covered energy and agriculture policy.