Adding conservative heft, Trump picks Pence as VP
WASHINGTON — Donald Trump on Friday announced that he has chosen Governor Mike Pence of Indiana as his running mate, adding a more cautious, calm, and conservative politician to the Republican ticket following a vetting process that seemed to come directly out of reality TV.
Trump made the announcement on Twitter, concluding a bizarre 24-hour period in which a nominee who prides himself on making quick, gut-level decisions appeared to hesitate on one of the most closely watched decisions of his campaign.
“I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate,” Trump tweeted Friday morning.
Following an attack in Nice, France, Trump canceled a planned announcement Friday morning. CNN reported Friday that Trump was so unsure of Pence as his selection that he asked aides around midnight whether he could still get out of it.
Trump is now planning to appear with Pence at the New York Hilton Midtown on Saturday at 11 a.m.
“Very excited, very humbled, and very grateful,” Pence said as he walked with his wife into Trump Tower Friday afternoon. “My family and I couldn’t be more honored to have the opportunity to run with and serve with the next president of the United States.”
Pence, 57, a former six-term congressman and current Indiana governor, brings political experience to a nominee who has none. Where Trump is brash and overstated, Pence is more reserved. And while grass-roots groups have been wary of Trump, Pence was an early supporter of the Tea Party movement.
Pence was seen as a safer and more traditional pick than some of the other candidates under consideration, and his selection began to calm worries among establishment Republicans in Washington who have grown concerned about Trump’s swashbuckling style. It is also likely to energize a conservative base that has been skeptical of Trump’s more moderate positions.
“Mike Pence would be an outstanding vice president,” said David McIntosh, the president of the Club for Growth, which ran ads against Trump. “Today’s news gives a similar hope that Mike Pence will be effective in pulling the Republican ticket toward economic conservatism and limited government.”
But while he adds a more predictable presence to Trump’s campaign, Democrats immediately seized on his staunchly conservative positions and some of his harsh comments about gays and lesbians that have caused his approval ratings in Indiana to plummet.
John Podesta, the campaign chairman for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, said, “Pence is the most extreme pick in a generation.”
“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,” Podesta said.
Pence — who often bills himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order” — was born and raised in Columbus, Ind. His grandfather immigrated from Ireland and drove a bus. His father ran gas stations.
He grew up in a family of Irish Catholic Democrats but grew more religiously conservative while attending Hanover College. He earned a law degree from Indiana University and married his wife, Karen, in 1985.
He ran a conservative policy research group and hosted a radio show in Indianapolis, but he also had several early losses when trying to run for Congress.
After one of those losses, Pence wrote a paper in 1991 titled “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner,” decrying negative politics. That essay — written when he regretted a negative ad he had run during the race —
“Negative campaigning is wrong,” he wrote. “A campaign ought to demonstrate the basic human decency of the candidate. That means your First Amendment rights end at the tip of your opponent’s nose — even in the matter of political rhetoric.”
Pence narrowly won a congressional race in 2000 and immediately began railing against big government. He was one of the few Republicans to oppose No Child Left Behind, and the Medicare drug benefit.
“Mike Pence comes from the heart of the conservative movement — and the heart of America,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has been skeptical of Trump. “I can think of no better choice for our vice-presidential candidate.”
Trump and Pence have little prior history, making it unclear whether they can develop the type of chemistry that can be important for a high-pressure political campaign, not to mention governing while in office.
Pence endorsed Trump’s rival Senator Ted Cruz, and he has publicly disagreed with him on a wide range of issues. Pence criticized Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States as “offensive and unconstitutional.” Pence also supported the Iraq war and has embraced the types of free trade agreements that Trump rails against.
He has also apparently been even more critical of Trump in private.
“It’s disorienting to have had commiserated w/someone re: Trump - about how he was unacceptable, & then to see that someone become Trump’s VP,” Dan Senor, a top Republican consultant and adviser, wrote on Twitter on Friday.
Trump’s pick capped a confusing several days in which Trump appeared unsure of which candidate he wanted to pick. He held an audition of sorts, appearing with some of the finalists, and then sat with family members for more intense discussions earlier in the week.
The final list included Pence, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Throughout the day Thursday, word leaked that Pence was the pick. The governor flew on a private plane to New York and appeared ready to join the formal announcement. But Trump’s campaign adamantly denied any final decision had been made.
Trump himself called into Fox News and said he had yet to make a “final, final decision.” He also canceled the announcement after the attacks in France, even though he still called into television shows and held a planned fund-raiser in California.
The timing got even more tricky because Pence was facing a deadline in his home state. He had until Friday at noon to withdraw his name from the ballot in his bid for reelection as Indiana governor. Because Indiana law prevents candidates from running for both governor and vice president, he had to make a decision about how to proceed.
Trump announced that Pence was his pick around 11 a.m. Shortly afterward, Pence submitted the paperwork to withdraw from the governor’s race.