Nov 7, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Pence does retail politics so Trump doesn't have to

Illustration of Mike Pence with a larger very oversized Trump button on his lapel.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Taking part in a storied tradition for the first-in-the-nation primary, Vice President Mike Pence is flying to New Hampshire today to formally file the Trump-Pence 2020 ticket for the ballot.

Why it matters: Flipping New Hampshire has been on President Trump's wish list since he lost there in 2016 by a margin of less than a half a percentage point. But the veep's trip is also part of a deliberately amped-up travel schedule as the White House tries to show it isn't buckling under the strain of impeachment.

Pence plays a sort of sweeper's role in Trump's reelection campaign — a retail-politicker-in-chief for a president who has little interest in campaigning at smaller, local events.

  • "The president is a unique politician because he came into this not being a politician," a Trump campaign official told Axios. "He loves to do these rallies, but the retail politicking on the lower level is something he reserves to other people."
  • "The VP, as a former governor and congressman, knows how to run these statewide campaigns, and that's exactly what you’ll see him do in these 10-15 swing states. You'll see him out, and often, in markets that frankly we need to be in," the official said.
  • Pence's chief of staff Marc Short told Axios: "When Trump does things, it's a much larger footprint. He likes the large rallies and big fundraising events, but the VP will be deployed in markets large and small across the country."

Key Pence targets: Trump campaign officials tell Axios that they plan to dispatch Pence on key fronts:

  • The Midwest: One official said polling shows that Pence, as a former Indiana governor, greatly appeals to farmers and families in the Midwest — particularly in Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana. "That's where the race is going to be won," the official said.
  • Evangelical Christians: Pence will again woo evangelicals and the Christian community, voters who were also key in 2016, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told Axios. Trump captured 81% of the evangelical vote in the last election.
  • Suburban women: "The campaign obviously has a lot of work to do with suburban women, and we think Pence might be able to help with that," another official said.
  • Second Lady Karen Pence will also take on a heightened role, "which can play into the overall strategy of appealing to more suburban women," the official added. She’ll be filing on behalf of the Trump-Pence ticket in Utah in a few weeks.

What to watch: A Pence campaign spokesman told Axios that today's event marks the beginning of a sustained effort the VP will make in New Hampshire. "It's a state we're not going to take for granted," the spokesman said.

  • New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu is expected to appear with Pence today.
  • Pence will also speak at Politics & Eggs.

Meanwhile, Thomas Rath, former attorney general of New Hampshire and an adviser to several GOP presidential candidates, tells Axios that while New Hampshire is "the best chance [Trump] has to carry a state north of Pennsylvania," it will still be tough for him to win.

  • "There's a style to him that you either buy into or you don’t, and right now there are a lot of people in New Hampshire who like the results but not necessarily the presentation," Rath said.
  • The state is "a microcosm of the larger race," Rath added, because the state's large proportion of undeclared voters offer a preview of the sentiments of independent or swing voters across the country.
Go deeper