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Pence appeals to Evangelicals, Cruz supporters at Colorado Springs town hall

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Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Mike Pence speaks at a town hall meeting in Colorado Springs Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Mike Pence speaks at a town hall meeting in Colorado Springs

The race to the White House once again rolled through Southern Colorado as Republican Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence held a town hall meeting at the Hillside Community Center in Colorado Springs.

It's the second high-profile visit by the Donald Trump Campaign to Colorado Springs in less than week, suggesting the importance the Centennial State plays in a Republican path to the presidency.

During his speech to the crowd of about 400 supporters, the Indiana Governor made direct appeals to a Republican base that backed Ted Cruz in the state caucus.

"We're electing a president for the next four years and that president is probably going to set the course and direction of the Supreme Court of the United States for the next 40 years," Pence said. "You'd better think about that real hard Colorado."

While his speech covered everything from fighting ISIS to lowering taxes, Pence seemed to make a direct appeal to a large voting block in the local Republican base, Evangelicals. The governor met privately with a group of pastors at an invitation-only event held at the Radiant Church North Campus prior to the town hall meeting.

Later at the town hall meeting, El Paso County County Commissioner Peggy Littleton opened the event with a fervent prayer.  During the Q&A session, two of the five audience members who spoke to Pence focused on his faith. A woman named Cindy recalled attending Emmanuel Bible College with Pence and his wife Karen in Washington DC. 

Another man named Rex asked wither the Reverend Billy Graham would be invited back to the White House under a Trump Presidency. 

"On day one, are you kidding? Who wouldn't want to meet Billy Graham," Pence replied.

Billy Graham's Navigators ministry has called Colorado Springs home since 1953.

In his closing remarks, Pence even made an overtures to Scripture by saying, "if we'll humble ourselves and pray He'll hear from heaven and He'll heal our land and we will be one nation under God, indivisible."

Josh Dunn, Chair of the Political Science Department at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs said it will be critical for Trump to win over Cruz voters in Colorado this November. 

"If he wants to win Colorado, not all of them, but a substantial percentage of those Cruz supporters and others that just didn't like Trump, they didn't think he was really conservative enough, those people, they have to vote for Trump," Dunn said.

That may not be an easy task. After all, members of the Colorado Delegation walked out of then National Convention in Cleveland and Cruz stopped short of endorsing Trump.

Still, local party leaders think Pence is the right man for the job of bridging the divide among the Republican base.

"Colorado Springs is a very conservative town of every military town a lot of core values that mirror those of the Republican Party and so I think Mike Pence is a very popular candidate here in El Paso County," said El Paso County Republican Chair Jeff Hayes.

"It's not only about the campaign but I think it's a question of do we want the same old/same old going forward or do we really want to see significant change in the White House," added County Commissioner Sallie Clark.

Recent polls show the race tightening between Trump and Clinton in Colorado. A Quinnipiac University Poll released August 17 gave Hilary a 10 point lead in a head to head race against Trump, but an 8 point lead in a 4-way race. A Magellan Strategies poll released August 29 showed Clinton leading by 5 points and an Emerson College Poll from last Thursday gave Trump a 4 point lead here.

Professor Dunn thinks Trump's comeback in Colorado that has more to do with Hilary than it does Trump.

"I think mostly Hillary doing worse that explains the tightening of the polls at least in Colorado," Dunn said.

Among the negative news that Dunn thinks hurt Clinton was the campaigns handling of her pneumonia diagnosis and the WikiLeaks revelations of efforts between top party officials to undermine the Bernie Sanders Campaign.

The Emerson poll also included 3rd party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein and showed Johnson with 13 percent support in Colorado.
Mike Pence wasn't the only member of the Trump team to visit on Thursday. Ivanka Trump spoke at a women's breakfast in Denver earlier in the day.

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