He always takes second billing to President Trump, but on Wednesday night Vice President Mike Pence grabs the spotlight as he gives the featured speech on the third evening of the Republican National Convention.
To make the case to reelect Trump, the president’s reelection campaign previewed that Pence will use an "optimistic tone" to lay out in detail Trump's economic and foreign policy accomplishments and the administration’s efforts in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic in what’s being billed as a “forward-looking” speech.
But the campaign also notes that the vice president will contrast those accomplishments with what they describe as simple platitudes being offered by Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
On a convention night themed “land of heroes,” the vice president appropriately enough will deliver his address from Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Md. The historic landmark was the site of a War of 1812 battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Ahead of his formal nomination acceptance speech, the vice president took a jab from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pointing to Pence’s role leading the White House coronavirus task force, Pelosi argued that “there's nothing for him to be proud of in terms of his role in fighting this virus. In fact there's evidence to support the fact that he was very slow on the draw, pulled his punch when he should have been leading with it. And he's part of the indictment on the coronavirus.”
For Pence, reelection in November could set him up as a leading contender for what will likely be a free-wheeling 2024 Republican presidential nomination race as the party moves into a post-Trump world. But a veteran Republican strategist, who asked for anonymity to speak more freely, highlighted that talk of the next White House race, “I don’t think enters the vice president’s mind right now.”
The strategist said that Pence and his team appear to be “remarkably focused on 2020 and are not letting 2024 conversations creep into anything.”
The vice president won’t be the only Pence in the spotlight. Second lady Karen Pence also speaks on Wednesday night.
“I get to talk a little bit about our military community,” she said in an interview on “Fox and Friends” hours ahead of her appearance. “I have worked a lot with military spouses to help them with employment and I have also done a lot of work with veterans on preventing suicide.”
With this four-day confab a celebration of Trump’s tenure in the White House, the president is never far from the spotlight and Wednesday night will be likely be no different than during the first two evenings of the convention, when Trump made numerous cameo appearances. The campaign wasn’t giving away any secrets, saying only that “the president will participate tonight.”
Also speaking is Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, one of the few Republican incumbents facing a challenging reelection this year who’s addressing the convention. Also in the lineup, conservative favorites Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Reps. Dan Crenshaw of Texas and Elise Stefanik of New York, and Lee Zeldin of New York, who one of Trump’s was staunchest defenders during the impeachment investigation and trial.
Crenshaw, on “Fox and Friends,” previewed a “message that America is actually a good place, not this bad place that needs to be revolutionized. It's a good place with a good foundation. And we want to build upon those foundations and be proud of our country. We want to be the party that teaches our kids to love America. And I think that's what you are going to hear tonight."
Wednesday’s lineup also includes another politician and fervent Trump supporter who like Pence may have national aspirations in the next White House race: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.
One of the president’s most trusted aides and advisers – Kellyanne Conway – also gets a speaking slot. The outgoing counselor to the president made history in 2016 as the first female campaign manager to win a presidential election.
Trusted Trump ally Richard Grenell will also give an address. The former ambassador to Germany and former acting director of national intelligence is now a top adviser on the president’s re-election campaign.
Also speaking are White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, and the president’s daughter-in-law and senior campaign adviser Lara Trump. She told Fox News that “I want to give a version of Donald Trump that you never hear out there, about truly the man that he is. It’s also the centennial of women’s suffrage, I’m going to talk about that, about the things that have been accomplished in so many great ways for women in this country under this administration.”
Fox News' chief White House correspondent John Roberts contributed to this report