Vice President Mike Pence makes campaign stop in Tampa

Just sixteen days into the presidential election year, Vice President Mike Pence made two stops along the Interstate 4 corridor, beginning in Tampa. 

Pence hosted a Keep America Great rally at the Venetian Event Center in New Tampa Thursday afternoon.

The last time Pence was in the Sunshine State was mid-December, when he was at Cape Canaveral for a launch with Governor Ron DeSantis, who kicked off the rally by welcoming President Donald Trump back to Florida residency.

Vice President Pence got right down to business, highlighting the president’s accomplishments, including rebuilding the military, taking on China, the newly created Space Force, and the recently-approved USMCA trade deal. 

On Impeachment, Pence called out democrats and what he called “sham investigations.”

“The Democrats are trying to run down this president because they know they can’t beat this president,” Vice President Pence said.  “Today we have a president who loves this country, stands by the military, stands by freedom, never quits never backs down. President Trump believes in you and fights for you every day.”

The message resonated with supporters like Debbi Hartzner from Lutz.

“The things I want to know about my money, my security, he didn’t dwell on the other stuff going on,” Hartzner said.

“He touched on crucial subjects. I can’t wait for 2020 for Trump to win again,” said 16-year-old Will Cullipher.

The VP shared personal stories of Americans he's met around the country. He recalled a day on the beach in Florida with his wife when two men approached them. 

"One of them walked right past us and said, 'You're Pence," the vice president said, pointing straight ahead. "He looked right at me and he said, 'You gotta tell the president to keep doing what he's doing, cause I made twice as much money the last year as I did the year before,' and I told him I would!"

Pence said the man began to walk away, but turned to say, "And I don't know what you're doing, but keep doing what you're doing, too," Pence recalled with a laugh, to wild cheers from the audience.

He attributed stories like that one to the president's policies, strong leadership, and partnerships with state governors like Ron DeSantis.

The vice president spoke for roughly 30 minutes before boarding his bus to continue his tour to Orlando, where he will speak at a Latino’s for Trump event. He will be delivering remarks at the Nación de Fe Church in Kissimmee. It’s an opportunity to swing voters that make up one of the state’s most coveted voting demographics. 

He wasn't the only member of the second family in town; second lady Karen Pence stopped by the Morean Arts Center’s Art of Valor Program to learn more about how military patients and veterans benefit from the community-based organization. Karen Pence meet with veterans and observed a glassblowing demonstration while she was there. 

Just two weeks into 2020, Vice President Pence’s visit is an indicator that the election season will be a busy one in Florida, a critical battleground state that is considered a must-win for President Trump. The 45th president won Florida’s 29 electoral votes in 2016.  

Thursday’s events come on the heels of the impeachment articles being signed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and sent to the Senate Wednesday. A new poll taken by Florida Atlantic University released January 15 shows voters are split on whether the president is guilty of high crimes.

According to the survey, 49 percent of Florida voters believe the president should be removed from office, while 51 percent are opposed to his conviction.

The poll also shows former Vice President Joe Biden taking the lead for Democrats in Florida, with 42 percent support. Biden is followed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders with 14 percent and Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren at ten percent.