Donald Trump announced Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate on Friday, adding significant government experience to his outsider campaign for the White House.
“I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate. News conference tomorrow at 11:00 A.M.,” he tweeted.
The choice of Pence, 57, who previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 12 years, was a nod to the socially conservative wing of the Republican Party and to the Rust Belt, a region crucial to the presumptive presidential nominee’s chances of victory.
An Indiana native and former radio talk-show host who became a born-again Christian in college, Pence has championed limited government and social causes, such as opposition to abortion, that appealed to conservatives and evangelicals.
Anticipation — and confusion — ran high surrounding Trump’s running-mate choice after he scrapped a planned announcement event scheduled for Friday in light of a deadly terrorist attack in France. Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said Friday in TV interviews that Trump, 70, was now planning a weekend announcement before the campaign moved to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention that starts there Monday, and that he didn’t think Trump’s choice would be officially revealed anytime on Friday.
CNN later reported, citing an unidentified source, that the Trump campaign was in fact planning to announce Pence’s selection Friday, then for Trump and Pence to campaign together for the first time Saturday in Bedminster, New Jersey.
The attack in France, which left more than 80 people dead and was labeled an act of terrorism by French President Francois Hollande, was just the latest violent event to roil the U.S. presidential race.
It follows American unrest over recent police killings of black men, the sniper killings of five Dallas police officers, and attacks by Islamic State sympathizers in Orlando, Florida, and abroad — all highlighting intractable domestic and international issues that Trump or presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would face as president. Clinton has not yet named her running mate.
Pence was facing a difficult re-election fight this year in a rematch of his 2012 race against Democrat John Gregg after controversy erupted over a religious-freedom law he signed last year. It drew swift opposition from business executives and gay-rights groups as being discriminatory.
Pence later sought and signed a measure that bars businesses from refusing to serve gays and lesbians on religious grounds to quell the furor.
“By picking Mike Pence as his running mate, Donald Trump has doubled down on some of his most disturbing beliefs by choosing an incredibly divisive and unpopular running mate known for supporting discriminatory politics and failed economic policies that favor millionaires and corporations over working families,” said Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta in a statement.
The Indiana governor backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the state’s May 3 Republican presidential primary that Trump won with 53 percent of the vote. Yet Pence complimented the real estate developer and TV personality before the balloting for giving “voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans with a lack of progress in Washington, D.C.,” and he made it clear afterward that he was supporting Trump to defeat Clinton.
“Now that the primaries are over, it’s time to come together,” Pence said during a speech at the Indiana Republican Party’s convention on June 11. “For the sake of our troops who deserve a commander-in-chief who will have their back, for the sake of working Hoosiers and job creators who need Washington, D.C., off their back, for the sake of the sanctity of life, and the Second Amendment, and the Supreme Court of the United States of America, we must resolve today that Indiana will be the first state on the board to make Donald Trump the 45th president.”
Pence could help Trump appeal to establishment Republicans seeking government experience on the ticket as well as conservatives wary of Trump’s commitment to their views on social issues.
Indiana has been a reliably Republican state in presidential election since 1936, voting Democratic only in 1964 and narrowly for Barack Obama in 2008 since then. Trump hopes to win in part by carrying Rust Belt states that have been voting Democratic in presidential races. Pennsylvania and Michigan haven’t picked a Republican since 1988, while Wisconsin’s last vote for a Republican was in 1984 and Ohio supported Obama in the past two elections.
It’s not clear that Pence—who had a 47 percent approval rating in Indiana in a November Ball State University poll—would extend any advantages to Trump in states beyond his own. A plurality of voters say a vice presidential candidate matters to them somewhat, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll published Thursday. Thirty percent say it matters a lot and about a third say it doesn’t really matter to them, according to the poll.
Pence, who is married with three children, was elected to Congress in 2000 after he lost campaigns in 1988, when he was 29 years old, and again in 1990. He served as Republican conference chairman in 2009-2010 and was chairman in 2005-2006 of the Republican Study Committee, a key bloc of House conservatives. Pence challenged John Boehner for House minority leader in 2006 and lost by a wide margin following the party’s setback in that year’s midterms.
In the House, Pence broke from other party leaders when he thought they were too willing to abandon principles of fiscal restraint and reducing the size of the federal government. He opposed the 2001 No Child Left Behind education law that had broad bipartisan support and the 2003 Medicare prescription drug law, both initiatives of fellow Republican George W. Bush’s administration.
Trump has said he wants a vice president with “great political experience,” who “would truly be good with respect to dealing with the Senate, dealing with Congress, getting legislation passed.”
“I think he’s a solid pick just because he has federal experience, he has governor’s experience. He’s a fiscal conservative, social conservative, military conservative,” said James Lankford, a U.S. senator from Oklahoma who served with Pence in the House, prior to the announcement.
An examination of Pence’s legislative record during 12 years in the House reveals scant tangible achievements, and instead points to a tenure marked by a desire to move the Republican Party and national debate in a conservative direction.
Pence was mentioned as a possible Republican presidential candidate this year after he won approval of what was billed as the largest state tax cut in Indiana history in 2014. He opted to run for re-election instead.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the top contributor to Pence’s congressional campaigns was the Club For Growth, an organization that is dogmatic about cutting taxes and the size of government—and that has feuded with Trump in the 2016 White House race. Industrialist David Koch is among the leading individual donors to Pence’s races for governor with $300,000, data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics shows.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were the other candidates on Trump’s short list. Gingrich, 73, a key figure in Clinton-era Washington and a 2012 presidential candidate, ceased his commentary contract with Fox News as the Trump running-mate speculation intensified.
Christie, 53, was tapped earlier by Trump to plan his transition to the White House if he is elected. A former chairman of the Republican Governors Association who proved to be a prodigious fundraiser, Christie is poised to remain on the national stage as governor of New Jersey for another 18 months, or possibly be named to a Trump administration position if the billionaire wins.
“I’m a competitive person, so I’m not going to say it won’t bother me if I’m not selected,” Christie said on MSNBC in an interview that aired Thursday. If not chosen, “I’ll just go back to work.”