Vice President Mike Pence is planning a summer cross-country campaign tour to support down-ballot Republicans who could face peril in next year's midterms, but it also has stoked the rumor mill about his intentions, Politico reported.
The timing of the trip so early in President Donald Trump's tenure and the creation of a political action committee have some speculating that this trip is as much about Pence campaigning for 2020 as it is about the VP propping up rank-and-file Republicans.
Not so, says Pence backers.
"He has an appetite to fight, so he's going to get out there and fight on the president's behalf," Nick Ayers, a longtime Pence strategist, told Politico. "Everything that has been done has been done to advance the president's policies."
Pence's likely stops, starting in June, according to Politico:
- Iowa: Gov. Kim Reynolds faces reelection in 2018.
- Michigan: Gubernatorial and Senate races are on tap next year.
- Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker faces reelection in 2018.
- Georgia: GOP hopeful Karen Handel is down in the polls in the runoff for Tom Price's seat.
All are similar to what Pence did in Montana to boost Greg Gianforte, who won the special last election last week to replace the seat vacated by now interior secretary Ryan Zinke.
There also are stops to meet with donors as well, Politico reported, all of it about playing the role of party surrogate.
However, the exposure also could benefit the former Indiana governor down the road.
"He will be one of the top tier surrogate requests from every campaign for the cycle," Jeff Roe, a Republican strategist, told Politico. "All of this will help him build relationships nationally that he barely had the time to create while on the ticket for four months last fall."
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