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Pence, in Iowa, maintains strong support for Trump

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NEWTON — Mike Pence on Tuesday reiterated his strong support for Donald Trump, to the great appreciation of roughly 200 supporters assembled at a campaign event in this central Iowa town.

He then delivered a withering, nearly 50-minute rebuke of Hillary Clinton.

Trump, the New York real estate businessman and Republican presidential candidate, has endured heavy criticism, including from his own party, since news reports Friday about a 2005 video showing Trump making lewd comments about groping women.

Pence began his remarks at Tuesday’s event on the Des Moines Area Community College campus here by emphatically restating his support for Trump, who apologized for the remarks in a video statement and during Sunday night’s presidential debate, during which he called the comments “locker-room talk.”

“I like to say it takes a big man to know when you’re wrong, to admit it, to apologize, and Donald Trump did just that,” Pence said. “Last Sunday night, my running mate showed humility. He showed the American people what was in his heart.”

Pence said the election provides a choice between two futures.

“I choose to stand with Donald Trump,” Pence said.

During the remainder of his remarks, Pence criticized Clinton, the Democratic candidate for president, on national security and the military, tax and regulatory policy and health care policy. He also reminded the assembly that the next president will nominate at least one and possibly multiple judges to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Steve King, the Republican congressman from northwest Iowa who is facing a re-election challenge from Democrat Kim Weaver, introduced Pence. King also reiterated his support for Trump.

King said he thinks Trump performed well in the debate, but any positive impact on Trump’s electoral chance was stunted when, the next day, Republican U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan told fellow GOP House members he would not help Trump get elected and instead focus on House races.

King said he thinks Ryan did not need to make that information public because, in King’s estimation, Ryan had not been campaigning much with Trump anyway.

“I think it hurts a lot, and it changes the narrative. And the bounce and the spring that Trump would have got from a rousing victory in the debate on Sunday night was diminished by the news that came out of the conference call on Monday morning,” King said.

After Pence’s remarks, he took a handful of questions from the audience. One passionate supporter, who introduced herself as Rhonda, said she is concerned about voter fraud and she is “ready for a revolution” if Clinton wins.

“Our lives depend on this election. Our kids’ futures depend on this election,” the woman said. “I don’t want this to happen, but I will tell you, for me personally, if Hillary Clinton gets in, I myself, I’m ready for a revolution, because we can’t have her in.”

Pence said politely, “Don’t say that,” then encouraged the woman that “a revolution is coming on November the 8th. I promise you.”

After the event, some of those who attended praised Pence and said they were not bothered by the Trump’s lewd comments in the 2005 video.

“I guess I didn’t see where that happening that long ago, you know people do change, and he’s now a political person but then he wasn’t,” said Chris Hunzinger, a Newton woman. “What happened there isn’t what I’m concerned about now with the world and the state it’s in. I don’t think he’s going to worry about that.”

Democrats, naturally, have not been as forgiving.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., traveled to Iowa on Tuesday to address a group of Clinton supporters at a campaign event in Des Moines. McCaskill said she suspects Pence and Joni Ernst, one of Iowa’s Republican U.S. senators, are having trouble reconciling their continued support for Trump.

“I don’t think he’s a very cheerful warrior right now,” McCaskill said of the Trump-Pence ticket. “I don’t think this is a team that is working seamlessly and in a coordinated fashion.”

McCaskill said there was a noticeable gasp in the St. Louis hall where last Sunday’s presidential debate took place when Trump said he and Pence had not talked about a U.S. response to the ongoing violence and Russian interference in Syria.

“It was a stunning admission of how separated these two men are,” McCaskill told reporters. “I bet he’s counting down the days, not because he’s looking forward to it. Just because he’s ready for it to be over.”

Pence also is scheduled to speak tonight in Bettendorf at the Scott County Republicans’ Reagan Dinner.

(Rod Boshart contributed to this story.)

For all of The Gazette's Election 2016 coverage, please visit our election coverage center.

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