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President Trump captured the White House by winning three states that many Democrats imagined he could not - Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Wisconsin voted for a Democrat for president seven times in a row before Trump broke the streak in 2016. In 2020, Vice President Pence has been traveling to the state, aiming to reassure some Republicans. Maayan Silver from member station WUWM in Milwaukee reports.
MAAYAN SILVER, BYLINE: Wisconsin was one of a trio of states whose Electoral College votes made Trump president. He travels here often, most recently to northern Wisconsin last week. Earlier in the week, Vice President Pence was in Waukesha County, a historically Republican suburb outside of Milwaukee. In front of a roomful of people decked out in red, white and blue, Pence gave a version of his stump speech.
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VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: You know, I like to tell people that - I like to tell people I'm a Christian, a conservative and a Republican in that order.
PENCE: And I couldn't be more proud to be vice president to a president who has stood strong for faith and freedom in America.
JULAINE APPLING: That's our language. He talked our language.
SILVER: Julaine Appling is president of Wisconsin Family Action, a conservative organization.
APPLING: When I left the Pence rally - the faith in America - I got the double entendre there. Pence made that very clear. We have faith in this country and the goodness of its people.
SILVER: And that people of faith need to stay behind the president.
APPLING: Including going to the polls and voting and encouraging others.
SILVER: Other Republicans, like Jorge Benavente, appreciate that Pence is more measured than the president. I met him outside of a bar in downtown Waukesha, where he was watching Trump do a town hall event on Fox News.
JORGE BENAVENTE: I mean, there's certain times where I wish Trump was more like Pence, but I'm willing to kind of take the good with the bad there.
SILVER: A few blocks away, outside Nice Ash Cigar Bar on Main Street, sales manager Joe Lander says he is reassured by Pence's presence on the GOP ticket.
JOE LANDER: I have some issues with Trump. Somebody should take his Twitter account away. (Laughter) I really think that should happen. I think it gets him in more trouble than what he needs to be getting into. But Mike Pence was a solid choice - very, very solid.
SILVER: Lander voted for Trump in 2016. While he will vote for the president again in November, he's not super confident about another victory.
LANDER: Right now, I'm not. I think there is a lot of division going on in the country right now, and I think it's going to be a tough road for him to get reelected right now.
SILVER: It's no coincidence that the Trump campaign is sending Pence to suburbs like Waukesha County, says Bill McCoshen, a Republican strategist. McCoshen says the former Indiana governor is a better fit right now for conservative suburban voters, notably women, especially, he says, given how Trump struggles to show empathy.
BILL MCCOSHEN: Both race and the pandemic are issues that require empathy - right? - because people have been impacted by it either personally, or their extended family. There's been a significant number of deaths.
SILVER: Pence has been dubbed the Wisconsin Whisperer by Charlie Sykes, a Milwaukee conservative political commentator who opposes Trump. But Sykes is dubious about whether Pence can really make much of a difference this fall.
CHARLIE SYKES: Donald Trump is so loud, it's hard to hear any of those whispers over the president. So I'm just not sure what it accomplishes, what the value added is.
SILVER: Sykes says ultimately, this election is going to be a referendum on Donald Trump, not on Mike Pence. For NPR News, I'm Maayan Silver in Milwaukee.
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