Pence takes post-acquittal victory lap in Pennsylvania swing
CAMP HILL, Pa. (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence made a swing through Pennsylvania on Wednesday into a post-acquittal victory lap, rousing a crowd of hundreds barely an hour after the Senate rejected articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.
“You know, it’s amazing to think about it, after months of a sham investigation, a partisan impeachment, it’s over America,” Pence told a cheering crowd in a hotel ballroom in a Harrisburg suburb.
Pence, appearing with U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, delivered a standard 40-minute campaign speech, but injected it with notes of victory and finality.
“I really do believe that the Democrats keep trying to run down this president because they know they can’t run against this president,” Pence said. “I think they tried to impeach this president because they know they can’t defeat this president in November of 2020.”
Trump was the first Republican presidential candidate since 1988 to win Pennsylvania, and the state is expected to be a premier battleground in this year’s election.
He won Pennsylvania by less than 1 percentage point and Trump in 2020 will have the complicated task of unlocking enough votes again in a state where Democrats have pounded Republicans in elections since 2016. Democrats easily won races for U.S. Senate and governor, and picked up more than 20 seats in Congress and the state Legislature.
Pence’s campaign event was held in a long-time Republican bastion that is becoming more of a battleground and in a congressional district where four-term Republican Rep. Scott Perry, a staunch Trump supporter, is expected to face a nationally watched challenge from Democrat Eugene DePasquale.
With Democrats assailing the Trump administration’s record on education, Pence earlier in the day appeared with DeVos at St. Francis de Sales Catholic school in Philadelphia to promote a central element of Trump’s education policy, a $5 billion plan to fund tuition for private school students.
The “Education Freedom Scholarships” would allow businesses and individuals to get 100% federal tax credits for donations to scholarship-granting groups.
Pence called Pennsylvania a national leader in such scholarships, citing its growing program that provides tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks for businesses that make donations to private and parochial school scholarships. At St. Francis, 90% of the students there have tuition assistance from the state, Pence said.
He also echoed Trump from his State of the Union address Tuesday night in chiding Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, for vetoing a GOP-penned bill last year that sought to substantially expand the program’s size and income eligibility limits.
However, opponents of the program say it lacks accountability, transparency and oversight, and siphons cash away from public schools. Wolf’s office also pointed out that businesses don’t need the tax break to make a charitable contribution.
Democrats and teachers’ union leaders criticized Trump’s education policies.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who was in Philadelphia on Wednesday to discuss efforts to deal with lead, asbestos and other environmental hazards in aging school buildings, said Trump has “destabilized, demoralized, decimated, defunded and denigrated public schools.”
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