CHICAGO — Gov. Bruce Rauner firmly embraced President Donald Trump's administration Friday, using an introduction of Vice President Mike Pence at a Rosemont campaign event to hail a White House for creating a domestic economy that is "roaring again."
And in a half-hour talk punctuated frequently by shouts of interrupting protesters, Pence returned the favor. The vice president said Rauner deserved praise for his "leadership on behalf of working families all across Illinois."
"People across the country are taking notice" of Rauner's efforts to help "job creators and revitalize the economy here in Illinois," Pence said.
The unification of Rauner and the Trump White House came before about 500 people attending a "Tax Cuts to Put America First" event at a hotel ballroom within earshot of O'Hare International Airport. It was sponsored by America First Policies, a nonprofit group with the goal of promoting Trump's policies and affiliated with America First Action, a pro-Trump super political action committee.
Rauner had spent much of his first term shunning any mention or discussion of Trump or controversial federal policies.
But after a bitter primary that divided the Illinois GOP's conservative base, Rauner has tried to coalesce a core constituency for his re-election battle against Democrat J.B. Pritzker and third-party candidate Sam McCann of Plainview, a Republican lawmaker running under the Conservative Party banner.
In his introduction, Rauner called Pence one of the "greatest leaders in American history" and said the vice president, a former governor of neighboring Indiana, and GOP governors there had turned the state into a "role model" for what Illinois needs to do.
"Mike Pence did it for the Hoosiers, and now Mike Pence along with President Trump are doing it for every American right now," Rauner said of Indiana's pro-business policies.
"The American economy is roaring today. Rising family incomes, higher wages, lower jobs, higher equality of life. Why? Because Vice President Pence, President Trump, working with Republican leaders, have cut the tax burden of the people of America. That's why," Rauner said. "Cut the tax burden, reduce the regulatory burden, fight for fair trade, and we have American jobs and higher family incomes."
And Pence noted Rauner vetoed a Democratic-led state income tax hike last year, though he did not mention that more than a dozen Republicans helped to override the governor and help end a historic budget impasse.
Pence's speech pushed public support for the Republican-led federal tax overhaul. He said a typical Illinois family would save more than $2,600 a year when all the tax cuts take effect despite concerns among Illinois homeowners over how a $10,000 cap on deducting state and local taxes will affect a final tax bill.
"Confidence is back. Jobs are coming back. And due to the work under President Donald Trump, America is back," Pence said.
But the vice president touched on a wide range of issues including controversies over trade and immigration.
Despite Midwestern fears of a growing trade war, Pence sought to assure farmers that Trump is looking out for their interests despite imposing tariffs that have led to counter-tariffs imposed by other nations.
"We're forging new and better trade deals for the American farmer," Pence said, adding, "We will stand with farmers 100 percent."
Pence also said the administration stood behind law enforcement and attacked what he called "reckless criticism from Democrats" to abolish the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement division.
"Under this administration, we will never abolish ICE," Pence said, also adding that under Trump's leadership the White House was moving ahead with "that big beautiful wall." Supporters stood and shouted, "Build that wall."
Within 90 seconds of Pence beginning to speak, a pair of protesters shouted and held up a banner saying "Trump and Pence must go." Supporters responded shouting, "USA."
It was the first of five protest interruptions in Pence's first five minutes of addressing the audience, including a woman who shouted: "Do you want babies in jail?" That was an apparent reference to the administration's "zero tolerance" policy on immigration resulting in migrant children being separated from their families.
Nearly 20 minutes later, Pence said, "President Trump and I are grateful for the leadership of Congressman Peter Roskam." A protester stood and asked, "Has anybody seen Peter Roskam anywhere?"
Pence's visit included a fundraiser for the Wheaton Republican, who remained in Washington for House votes. As the protester was being removed, Pence continued: "Congressman Peter Roskam deserves the support of the people of Illinois."
Roskam is facing Democratic businessman Sean Casten in November, in the northwest and west suburban 6th Congressional District in which Democrat Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by 7 percentage points.
Democrats and allied groups protested outside the event, led by state Rep. Christian Mitchell of Chicago, who was recently named the interim executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois.
"I'm really grateful for almost everybody who came," Pence said as he closed his remarks. "But I respect everybody that came. That's what freedom sounds like."