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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

Trump grants flurry of last-minute pardons

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty

President Trump issued 73 pardons and commuted the sentences of 70 individuals early Wednesday, 11 hours from leaving office.

Why it matters: It's a last-minute gift to some of the president's loyalists and an evident use of executive power with only hours left of his presidency. Axios reported in December that Trump planned to grant pardons to "every person who ever talked to me."

Trump revokes ethics order barring former aides from lobbying

Photo: Spencer Platt via Getty

Shortly after pardoning members of Congress and lobbyists convicted on corruption charges, President Trump revoked an executive order barring former officials from lobbying for five years after leaving his administration.

Why it matters: The order, which was signed eight days after he took office, was an attempt to fulfill his campaign promise to "drain the swamp."

  • But with less than 12 hours left in office, Trump has now removed those limitations on his own aides.

Trump pardons former GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy

President Trump has pardoned Elliott Broidy, a former top Republican fundraiser who pleaded guilty late last year to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws as part of a campaign to sway the administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests.

Why it matters: Broidy was a deputy finance chair for the Republican National Committee early in Trump’s presidency, and attempted to leverage his influence in the Trump administration on behalf of his clients. The president's decision to pardon Broidy represents one last favor for a prominent political ally.

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