Pence visits firebombed office, defends 'rigged' claims

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HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. – Republican vice-presidential hopeful Mike Pence is condemning the firebombing of a North Carolina Republican campaign office as an “act of political terrorism.”

The Indiana governor made a surprise stop Tuesday at the Orange County Republican headquarters, encouraging local GOP officials and volunteers as he stood among stacks of Donald Trump campaign signs left charred by a Molotov cocktail.

“An attack on our political system is an attack on us all,” Pence told reporters outside the office. He praised Trump supporters for their “courage” and “resilience” and added, “We will not be intimidated.”

Pence visited the office, located on the outskirts of the Raleigh-Durham area, on his way to two other events in the state. He’s delivering recovery supplies to Hurricane Matthew victims in Wilmington and headlining a campaign rally in Fayetteville.

North Carolina is a must-win state for the Trump, with the New York billionaire having no realistic path to the required 270 electoral votes if he doesn’t win here.

Authorities are still investigating the firebombing, which happened some time overnight Saturday into Sunday. No one was injured.

Separately, Pence struggled to defend Trump’s repeated assertions that the Nov. 8 election will be “rigged,” claims Trump has offered without evidence.

When first asked about Trump’s statement, Pence argued that his running mate was talking primarily about “the overwhelming bias in the national media.” When pressed on Trump’s specific predictions of widespread voter fraud, Pence argued that there have been “proven instances of fraud” in recent decades.

There have been, in fact, only limited instance of voter impersonation, and never enough to alter the outcomes of national elections.

Pence said he believes “in local participation” and suggested Trump only wants his supporters to “respectfully participate” at the polls “to ensure the integrity of the election.”

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Follow Bill Barrow at https://www.twitter.com/BillBarrowAP

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