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Pence blasts Strickland for Scalia comment

'Those remarks are appalling,' he says during Dayton campaign stop

  • Campaign-2016-Pence-8-10

    Republican vice presidential candidate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks Monday during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Senate-2016-Ohio-Strickland-8-10

    Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Ohio, speaks at a rally in Columbus.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

MORAINE, Ohio — Donald Trump's would-be vice president Mike Pence today blasted U.S. Senate candidate Ted Strickland for comments suggesting that the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may have come at a “good time” for labor.

“Former Gov. Ted Strickland, I just learned on the way over here, said on Monday that the death of Justice Antonin Scalia 'happened at a good time',” the Indiana governor said during a brief town hall meeting near Dayton.

“Those remarks are appalling, and they're one more reminder why Ohio must re-elect Sen. Rob Portman,” he said to cheers from the friendly crowd of about 400. “The death of a constitutional scholar like the late Justice Antonin Scalia was an American tragedy, and Donald Trump and I know there is never a good time for a good man and principled conservative to leave the Supreme Court or leave this earth.

“But the truth is Ted Strickland's callous remarks remind us of the stakes in this election, particularly in regards to our constitutional liberties, including the right to keep and bear arms.”

Mr. Strickland has since apologized for his remarks, saying they were "insensitive." The Democratic former governor made them at a labor gathering in Cleveland, apparently in reference to a tied Supreme Court decision earlier this year. That decision had the effect of upholding a lower-court ruling preserving so-called “fair share fees” charged of employees who refuse to join workplace unions.

That tie was made possible by the continuing vacancy created by Justice Scalia's death.

“My friends, a lot of average citizens out there don’t understand the importance of that court,” Mr. Strickland said Monday. “I mean, the death of Scalia saved labor from a terrible decision. And I don’t wish anyone ill, but, it happened at a good time, because once that decision had been made it would have been tough to reverse it.

“And so, everything that we care about — labor rights, voting rights, human rights, environmental policy, everything we care about — will be at risk if a Donald Trump and a Republican Senate can refashion that Supreme Court.”

Both campaigns have talked about the significance of the vacancy. Democrats have blasted the decision of Senate Republicans not to consider confirming President Obama's lame-duck appointment of Washington D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland. Mr. Portman has joined fellow Republicans in saying that decision should be made by the next president.

“To lose (Justice Scalia) at such a time as this and to have now literally the Supreme Court hanging in the balance in this election, you can't lose that to the whole discussion in this election,” Mr. Pence said. “The next president of the United States could appoint up to three members of the Supreme Court, which if you do the math in the relative age of the Supreme Court, could literally dictate the direction of the court for three and four decades in this country.”

In reaction to Mr, Pence's comments today, Strickland spokesman David Bergstein tried to turn the tables on Mr. Trump and Mr. Portman.

"Here are the words we haven’t heard from Senator Portman: I made a mistake in continuing to back Donald Trump after his attacks on the Gold Star Khan family, his disparaging comments about women, and his assertion that Secretary Clinton should be assassinated," he said. "I think that tells Ohioans everything they need to know about the difference between Senator Portman and Ted.”

Mr. Pence's references to the high court and to decisions affecting the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms was as close as Mr. Pence came to addressing Mr. Trump's latest controversy. On Tuesday night Mr. Trump made a comment that the Clinton campaign has interpreted as suggesting violence against the former secretary of state, New York senator, and first lady to prevent the appointment of judges who may not be friendly to the Second Amendment.

The conservative first-term governor and former congressman initially backed U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. He endorsed Mr. Trump after Mr. Cruz lost Indiana and dropped out of the race.

On the campaign trail, his events have often served as a contrast to the more freewheeling rallies that Mr. Trump has specialized in. Mr. Pence has focused more on policy-oriented, town hall-style settings in which he has sometimes responded to recent controversies generated by his boss.

The town hall meeting lasted less than 50 minutes and lacked any substantive questions from the audience. Mr. Pence praised the economic policies of broad tax cuts, tough talk on trade deals, and deregulation as outlined on the campaign trail and in a speech to the Detroit Economic Club earlier this week.

The Clinton campaign, meanwhile, stuck to script in contrasting her economic plan to Mr. Trump's

“An independent analysis by the former economic adviser to (Republican) Sen. John McCain recently calculated that, under Hillary's plan, the economy would create 10.4 million jobs nationally in her first term alone,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat, said at a local union hall prior to the Pence event.

“The same analysis by the economic adviser ... shows that Ohio would see a gain of (376,000) jobs,” she said. “Meanwhile Donald Trump's plan would cause a loss of more than a 123,000 jobs. ... This election has consequences of nearly half a million jobs her in Ohio being at stake.”

The study was conducted by Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody's Analytics, who is also a Democrat and a Clinton donor. He has suggested that Mr. Trump's policies would balloon the national debt and lead to recession.

Mrs. Clinton plans to be at a Warren, Mich., business on Thursday to promote her plan. She has called for a massive investment in infrastructure development, reduced red tape and taxes on certain small businesses, a crackdown on trade abuses, and repeal of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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