Vice President Mike Pence will campaign in Sarasota in July as part of a faith outreach effort. But the stop is sure to raise questions about the appropriateness of political gatherings during a pandemic.
The “Faith In America” tour swings through the Southwest Florida city on July 2 at 11:30 a.m.
The Indiana Republican will focus on a message that’s defined his role in Donald Trump’s administration since his selection as running mate. Namely, that’s speaking to conservative faith-based voters.
He kicked off the social conservative outreach effort with a stop in another battleground state, Wisconsin.
“”I’m in Wisconsin for one reason and one reason only and that is Wisconsin and America need four more years of President Donald Trump in the White House,” he said at that rally, according to local ABC affiliate WISN.
Notably, Pence within the administration has led up the response to the coronavirus crisis. Shortly after being tapped to lead that effort, he caught flak for prioritizing campaigning, ironically at a fundraiser in Sarasota.
The region is notably located in the backyard of Joe Gruters, chair of the Republican Party of Florida and the former Florida co-chair of Trump’s 2016 campaign. For most of the election cycle four years ago, the mid-sized city served as state headquarters for the campaign. The community is also where Trump held his final Florida rally on the way to a surprise win that year.
“We’re excited him [Pence] back to the Sunshine State,” he said. “The VP has been here a couple of times since the last campaign, and I think he’s shown great leadership under COVID-19.”
Pence is returning to the area as Florida Republicans put plans together for the Republican National Convention nominating speech in Jacksonville.
But after months of eschewing the signatures of a Trump campaign, the candidates at the top of the ticket are once again speaking with crowds. Trump spoke with an atypically small crowd in Tulsa earlier this week.
In Wisconsin, Pence stressed the importance of states opening up again. Florida has moved to Phase Two reopening, allowing crowds of 50 or more to gather for events such as the one coming next Thursday to Sarasota.
The Pence stop will take place at the Sarasota Event Center, a modest venue north of Fruitville Road that normally holds weddings, trade shows and corporate events.
In Wisconsin, the Vice President spoke to a crowd gathered in a hotel ballroom. Attendees, for the most part, sat in chairs spaced out for social distancing purposes.
But even that prompted a statement from Democrat Joe Biden’s campaign that such rallies put the health of Americans at risk.
If that’s how Democrats feel that’s fine, Gruters said.
“The good thing is they don’t have to show up,” he said. “We only want people who want to come.”