The Republican ticket is poised to upend the status quo, and Donald Trump is ready to be president, vice presidential nominee Mike Pence told a King of Prussia audience Tuesday.
In a wide-ranging speech, Pence promised that a President Trump would bring a stronger economy, "rebuild" the military, and secure American borders with a wall - while also describing Trump as a "compassionate" candidate who last week comforted flood victims in Louisiana.
"You have nominated a man who is a fighter, who is a winner," Pence, the Indiana governor, told about 200 people who gathered in a warehouse.
The visit was the first by either GOP nominee to the Philadelphia region since the Republican National Convention last month, and comes with the Keystone State projected to be a cornerstone of the GOP strategy.
"The road to the White House goes straight through Pennsylvania," Pence told the crowd, drawing cheers. He later spoke at a public rally at a plant in Pipersville, Bucks County, where about 300 people whooped and booed as he derided political correctness and lambasted the media.
In King of Prussia, a group of invited guests cheered as Pence, introduced by Republican State Rep. Mike Vereb, talked about repealing Obamacare and supporting military and law enforcement.
Pence also hammered Trump's rival, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, over questions about her private emails and the Clinton Foundation, which he said she should shut down immediately. She "literally personifies a failed establishment in Washington, D.C.," Pence said.
"Donald Trump and Mike Pence's dangerous policies would be a disaster for working families in the Philadelphia suburbs," said Corey Dukes, the Hillary for America state director. "Trump's continued divisive and hateful rhetoric proves the Trump-Pence ticket cannot be allowed to lead our country."
Across the street from the King of Prussia warehouse, a small group of Democrats gathered earlier to protest. Citing Pence's antiabortion efforts, they wore pink shirts in support of Planned Parenthood.
"I don't believe that politicians, especially men, which are most of them, should be making that decision," said Sherry Blumenthal, a retired ob-gyn physician from Springfield Township, Montgomery County. "Where do these people come off telling women what we should do?"
Inside the event Pence found a friendlier reception, and a few open minds.
Ryan Dodds, 34, a technical recruiter from Parkesburg, said he was "still completely wide open" about who to vote for, so he welcomed the chance to see a candidate live. "I'd like to see if it's possible for someone like Pence and Trump to bring the party back together," said Dodds, a registered Republican. "Right now I think is very divisive."
Nick Sexton, 19, of West Chester, said he was still undecided but he thought Pence seemed "genuine," a comment that would be echoed in Pipersville. "Mike Pence makes me feel more comfortable with Trump," Sexton said.
Clinton had a 39 percentage-point lead in the Philadelphia region - and 11 percentage points statewide - in the most recent Franklin and Marshall College poll, released earlier this month. A campaign aide said she has established more than 35 offices across the state.
In Pipersville, where he was introduced by Bucks County Commissioner Rob Loughery, Pence hailed Trump's resilience.
"They say, 'This time we finally done him in,' " he said, "and then you turn on the TV the next morning and Donald Trump is still standing, stronger than he was before."
Some supporters acknowledged that Trump has been hard to swallow but that Pence has been a positive addition to the ticket.
"I think people are finally realizing what's right or wrong, and they don't know necessarily if this is the right decision, but it's the lesser of two evils," Adam Tatar, 22 of Doylestown, said after the Pipersville rally, adding that he came away impressed with Pence.