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Pence to court evangelicals in conservative Milwaukee suburb

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence planned to launch a faith-centered tour in a conservative Milwaukee suburb on Tuesday, after touting Wisconsin’s school choice program for the second time this year.

Pence’s events come two days before President Donald Trump was to campaign in northeast Wisconsin. Trump was to tour the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard and tape a town hall meeting at the Green Bay airport to be broadcast Thursday night on Fox News.

The dual visits in one week speak to Wisconsin’s importance in the presidential race. Trump carried the state by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016. Trump and Pence are visiting parts of Wisconsin that Trump won in 2016 and where he must shore up and grow support this year if he hopes to win against Democrat Joe Biden.

Pence’s “Faith in America” event in Pewaukee will highlight the central position that religious conservatives — particularly white evangelicals, but also right-leaning Catholics — continue to occupy in the president’s base. Trump was going to a Phoenix megachurch on Tuesday. Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker was to join Pence at the event in Wisconsin.

Earlier on Tuesday, Pence was to be joined by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for a school choice round table discussion at Waukesha STEM Academy. Pence and DeVos also both appeared at a school choice rally in Wisconsin’s state Capitol in January.

Both of Tuesday’s events are in Waukesha County, a stronghold of Republican support in Wisconsin. Trump carried the county with 60% of the vote, under-performing Republican Mitt Romney’s showing in 2012. Doing better in the Milwaukee suburbs is one part of Trump’s strategy for winning Wisconsin.

Biden campaign spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield derided the Pence visit as an attempt to “clean up Trump’s mess” in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. She called the Trump’s handling of the coronavirus “catastrophic,” referring to Trump’s recent comments about wanting to slow down testing.

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