BILLINGS – Vice President Mike Pence told a Montana crowd here Friday evening that President Donald Trump needs allies in Congress like Republican Greg Gianforte – to beef up the military, build a border wall and repeal “Obamacare.”

“We need more allies in Congress to make America great again,” Pence said. “We need Greg Gianforte in Congress. On May 25. Mark it down and do your part Montana.”

Pence, the first vice president to visit Montana on official business in a decade, spoke for a half-hour to a raucous, partisan crowd at the Billings Metra, urging them to vote in Montana’s May 25 special election and to take a friend with them.

“Remember, friends don’t let friends vote alone,” he said.

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After the speech, Gianforte and his wife, Susan, joined Pence on stage – along with Pence’s wife, Karen, U.S. Interior Secretary and former Montana congressman Ryan Zinke and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and his wife Cindy.

Gianforte, 56, a Bozeman businessman, is competing against Democrat Rob Quist and Libertarian Mark Wicks for Montana’s sole U.S. House seat, which became vacant when Zinke resigned March 1 to take the top job at Interior.

With the election just two weeks away, money and political star power is rushing into Montana, trying to sway voters in a race that’s been cast as a referendum on President Trump.

Donald Trump Jr. has visited the state twice to campaign for Gianforte, including four stops this week, and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is coming to Montana next weekend to campaign for Quist.

Trump won Montana by 20 percentage points last November, and most political observers believe Gianforte is a solid favorite to keep the seat in Republicans’ hands.

Still, Quist, a musician and political newcomer, has raised more than $4 million for his campaign in only three months, and some polls have shown the race to be within single digits.

Pence began his speech with a glowing review of the first 100 or so days of the Trump administration, saying the president has fought to bring 700,000 new jobs to the country, “roll back mountain ranges of red tape and regulations” and increase spending on the military.

“He signed into law the largest increase in military spending in the last 10 years,” the vice president said. “And with Greg Gianforte in the Congress, President Trump is going to pass the largest, single-year increase in military spending since the days of Ronald Reagan. But we need Greg Gianforte to do it.”

Pence invoked Gianforte’s name often, saying the Republican candidate would help “build a wall” on the U.S.-Mexico border, “repeal and replace Obamacare and give the American people the health care they deserve,” and stand “without apology” for the 2nd Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms.

He also took shots at Quist, calling him the “wrong choice for Montana … and for America.”

“Where our candidate stands with the people and the common-sense conservative values, the other side stands with (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi,” Pence said. “It will be one more vote for the Democratic agenda, opposing President Trump every step of the way.”

Pence also visited the Absaloka coal mine east of Billings earlier Friday, and told the crowd that under Trump, “the war on coal is over.”

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