CAMP HILL – Vice President Mike Pence told Republicans gathered near Harrisburg Thursday night that Pennsylvania was vital in the 2016 presidential election and winning the state again would be a key step toward re-electing President Donald Trump.

“Do everything you did last time, but do more,” Pence said.

In a 30-minute speech, Pence focused most on the economy and immigration, the latter an issue that appeals to voters in Pennsylvania, despite the state’s distance from the Mexican border. Pence noted that former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta was clamoring for more attention to be paid to the issue of illegal immigration before it became a national controversy.

Pence said immigration enforcement stopped 144,000 undocumented migrants trying to enter the country in May and that the number of stopped undocumented migrants is on pace to hit 1 million for the year.

“Democrats say it’s a manufactured crisis,” Pence said. “The only thing manufactured is their outrage.”

Pence said the administration’s efforts to secure the border have been an important part of Trump’s success in delivering on his campaign promises.

“We’ve already started to build that wall,” he said. “We’re going to build it all.”

With his move to enact new tariffs on goods imported from Mexico, the president has also moved to compel that country to take more responsibility for slowing the flood of migrants coming to the United States’ southern border, the vice president said.

“Those talks continue,” he said. “We’ve made some progress, but as the president said yesterday, not nearly enough.”

On the state of economy, Pence said that since Trump took office, the U.S. has added 5.8 million new jobs, including 500,000 manufacturing jobs. That includes 6,000 new manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania, the vice president said.

Pence also took aim at comments made by former President Barack Obama who questioned whether Trump would need to wave a magic wand to revive the country’s manufacturing sector the way he’d promised on the campaign trail.

“We didn’t need a magic wand,” Pence said. “We just needed Donald Trump in office.”

The themes of the economy and immigration will resonate with voters through the 2020 election, said Rob Gleason, of Johnstown, the former chairman of the state Republican Party, before Pence’s speech.

“Out where I live in Cambria County, people love Trump. He will carry Cambria County more than he did last time. The people like what he’s doing,” Gleason said.

Democrats countered that Trump’s economic policies haven’t benefited working people in the state.

“Pennsylvanians are fed up with the Trump administration’s broken promises to our commonwealth, and a photo-op visit from Mike Pence can’t cover up their record,” said Brandon Cwalina, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. “Our working families and local businesses shouldn’t have to pay the price for the Trump administration’s failed leadership, but their reckless policies are hurting workers and manufacturers across Pennsylvania.”

John Finnerty is based in Harrisburg and covers state government and politics. Follow him on Twitter @CNHIPA.

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