Vice President Mike Pence visited Minnesota on Thursday — his second stop in the state this month — to address the American Legion’s national conference and attend a fundraiser for the state’s Republican Party.
In an afternoon address to the Legion crowd at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Pence said he brought greetings and congratulations from President Donald Trump, who spoke at the convention last year.
“Freedom isn’t free,” he said. “It requires Americans to answer the call. And you, Legionnaires, answered that call.”
Pence’s visit comes after the American Legion and the White House clashed this week after Trump responded to U.S. Sen. John McCain’s death by lowering the White House flag to half-staff briefly and giving a terse statement.
From its national conference in Minneapolis, the American Legion put out a statement urging Trump to make “an appropriate presidential proclamation” about McCain, a war hero, and keep the flag at half-staff through McCain’s interment.
Trump relented under pressure Monday, re-lowering the flag and releasing a statement recognizing McCain’s “service to our country.”
On Thursday, Pence honored McCain to the standing ovation of the crowd.
The American Legion is holding its 100th national convention in Minneapolis — which hosted its first one in 1919 — with about 12,000 people attending it. Among the speakers this week were U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Tim Walz, who is running for Minnesota governor.
Fewer than 1,000 people attended Pence’s speech Thursday, the last event on the final day of the convention.
While in Minnesota, Pence also plans to speak at a GOP “unity fundraiser” at a Bloomington hotel. The ticketed event, which is closed to the media, costs $150 per person (or $2,500 per person for a photo op with Pence). Pence will then travel to Milwaukee to raise money for U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir.
Pence’s visit Thursday marks the third White House stop to Minnesota in just over a month — an indication of just how focused the administration is on Minnesota ahead of an election filled with competitive races in a state Trump nearly won in 2016.
Trump hosted a rally in Duluth in late July to support Eighth Congressional District candidate Pete Stauber, a retired police officer and member of the St. Louis County Board. Pence visited Duluth earlier this month to offer more support for Stauber, who is locked in a competitive race to replace Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan, who is vacating the seat.
Republicans are hoping to not only win the Eighth District, but also Minnesota’s First Congressional District, while also defending suburban incumbents such as U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis and Rep. Erik Paulsen.
When Pence arrived in Minneapolis Thursday on Air Force Two, he was greeted by Lewis and Republican Rep. Tom Emmer, who represents the Sixth District, which spans the north metro suburbs and central Minnesota.
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141