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January 18, 2018

Trump plays politics with today's 'official' visit to Pennsylvania

President Donald Trump is heading to Pennsylvania on Thursday afternoon to offer his support to a Republican congressional candidate.

Trump, who will not visit the Pittsburgh-area district where state Rep. Rick Saccone is running in a March 13 special election, will talk about his tax overhaul. Saccone will greet Trump at the airport and accompany the president on a tour of a local factory, according to the White House.

“Will be going to Pennsylvania today in order to give my total support to RICK SACCONE, running for Congress in a Special Election (March 13). Rick is a great guy. We need more Republicans to continue our already successful agenda!” the president tweeted on Thursday morning.

Trump is not expected to mention Saccone in his remarks, the Associated Press reported.

The president's support is seen as an effort to head off another upset in a U.S. House district that has been held for 16 years by Republicans. Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to join Saccone on the campaign trail on February 2.

Saccone is challenged by Democrat Conor Lamb, 33, in a race to fill the seat resigned by former Republican Rep. Tim Murphy as a sex and abortion scandal unfolded.

The 18th Congressional District voted for Trump by 19 percentage points, but internal party polls now indicate a single-digit race, according to the New York Times.

According to Politico, the tour was originally planned as an official event, but Trump’s tweet also seemed to suggest a political reason for the trip. The White House said later Thursday that it did not consider the 3 p.m. trip to H&K Equipment Co. in Coraopolis a political event.

"The president is enthusiastic about today's trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to discuss the incredible successes his tax plan is already achieving for the American people," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, Politico reported. "While the president has made clear his support for Republican candidates throughout the country, including in Pennsylvania, the purpose of today's visit is to promote the president's successful agenda, especially on taxes."