By Dan Merica
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (CNN) — Vice President Mike Pence will continue his health care road show on Saturday here in Louisville. But, unlike past events, the vice president comes armed with a health care plan to sell.
President Donald Trump, Pence and their administration, despite concerns raised by conservative Republicans, have stood fully behind the health care plan authored by Republicans on Capitol Hill. The health care plan has not enjoyed a smooth rollout, but White House aides hope Pence will be able to confidently argue why repealing and replacing Obamacare – President Barack Obama’s sweeping 2010 health care law – is best done with this proposal.
Pence has visited Missouri, Wisconsin and Ohio as vice president to discuss health care. But Saturday’s event is different.
By speaking with business owners and giving a speech at Trane Parts and Distribution Center in northern Kentucky, the former Indiana governor is subtly challenging Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian who has been a vocal critic of the health care plan backed by Trump.
When asked about whether the event is a challenge to Paul, a Pence aide demurred, arguing that Saturday’s event is no different than the vice president’s other events.
“He will talk about the efforts that are underway to bring people together,” the aide said about Pence’s work to win over conservatives. “I think he uses his relationships and he obviously has long standing relationships with folks, he understands the legislative process, so he views that as an opportunity to help work on the president’s agenda and ushering it through Congress.”
One problem: Republican Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, who will be with Pence on Saturday, will be proof of the difficulties the Trump administration may face in selling their plan.
Speaking with reporters on Friday, Bevin aligned himself with Paul in a subtle knock on the administration’s plan.
“Senator Paul has ideas of things he thinks need to be a lot stronger. He’s not as impressed with what has currently been offered as some who have currently offered it,” Bevin said. “Truth be told, I’m not either, so I’m with him. I think there are things that need to be done.”
Bevin later looked to clean up his comments, arguing that he was looking forward to the conversation, but the symbolism was already clear: The Trump administration’s health care proposal is so controversial with conservatives that even the people appearing with the vice president to sell the bill are skeptical about it.
Conservatives will not be the only critics following Pence to the Bluegrass State.
A group of Democratic groups, including Save My Care, Indivisible and Black Lives Matter, will protest Pence’s visit and “stand against Republicans’ bill to take away health care from millions.”
The protest will be part of the Save My Care Bus Tour, a two-month trip aimed at galvanizing support against the Republican health care plan.