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Greenville County Republican Party Chairman Nate Leupp is predicting a big crowd will gather for Vice President Mike Pence’s rally Tuesday afternoon at Donaldson Airport.
“Vice President Pence is still well-loved in the Upstate, so I would assume it would be in the thousands,” Leupp said Monday.
The event, which is slated to start at 3:30 p.m., takes place one week before Election Day.
It also comes after reports surfaced over the weekend that Pence will stay on the campaign trail even though his chief of staff, senior political advisor and three staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.
Vice President Mike Pence waves at the crowd of around 3,000 at the Faith and Freedom Barbecue at the Civic Center of Anderson on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. (Photo: Ken Ruinard)
South Carolina is seen as a GOP stronghold, and it is highly unusual for a high-profile Republican like Pence to visit the state at this late stage of the campaign. His stop in Greenville will be sandwiched between rallies Tuesday in Greensboro and Wilmington, North Carolina, which is viewed as a battleground state in this year’s election.
South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson said Pence’s visit indicates that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham is struggling and needs help in his race against challenger Jaime Harrison.
Robertson criticized Pence for continuing to campaign after he was in close contact with some of his aides that are infected with COVID-19.
“The event that he is having tomorrow is a clear indication that he doesn’t give a damn about the health of the people of the Upstate,” Robertson said.
Greenville GOP chair says event is ‘thanks’ for Amy Coney Barrett
Leupp said he believes that Pence is coming to Greenville to give Graham “a pat on the back” for his efforts to confirm U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Graham presided over Barrett’s confirmation hearing. The full Senate is expected to approve her nomination on Monday night.
“I don’t believe it is in any way a campaign worrying about what is going to happen November 3,” Leupp said. “I believe it is a thank-you for what he has done this last month, and even before then.”
Leupp said he has been told that Pence’s rally will be held outside and those attending will be required to wear masks and have their temperatures checked as they arrive.
Pence has repeatedly tested negative for COVID-19, and Leupp said the vice president does not pose a health risk.
“I don’t even imagine that the vice president will be getting close enough to any South Carolinian voters to cause any worry,” Leupp said.
Although COVID-19 cases are rising in Greenville and throughout large swaths of the nation, Leupp said conservative Republican voters have told him that the pandemic is not a top issue for them in next month’s election.
Pence came to Greenville to help launch Graham’s bid for a fourth term
At the time, Graham had a formidable campaign war chest, and a poll showed him holding a 23-point lead over Harrison.
Since then, Harrison has seized a financial advantage by raising a record-breaking amount of campaign cash, and polls show that Graham is facing the toughest battle of his political career.
Harrison’s campaign said Monday that he will hold an Upstate drive-in rally in Spartanburg at 5 p.m. Saturday. The site of the rally will be announced later.
Harrison — a former chairman of the state Democratic Party who is seeking elected office for the first time —and Graham — a Republican from Central who is seeking a fourth term in the Senate — have spent a combined $168 million on their campaigns, the highest total in South Carolina history. Their race is this year’s most costly Senate contest, according to opensecrets.org.
Those planning to attend Pence’s rally on Tuesday can register online at events.donaldjtrump.com.
Kirk Brown covers government and politics. Follow him on Twitter @KirkBrown_AIM.
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