INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Mike Pence appears likely to be Donald Trump’s running mate on the Republican ticket in November.
Multiple sources close to the presumptive presidential nominee revealed to media outlets Thursday the New York businessman has chosen the first-term Hoosier governor and former six-term congressman to be his vice president.
A formal announcement was set for 10 a.m. Region time today in Manhattan. Trump took to Twitter Thursday evening and said that in light of the attack in Nice, France, he would delay that announcement indefinitely.
As for Pence, he flew into Teterboro Airport in New Jersey before heading into New York City on Thursday afternoon.
Pence has until 11 a.m. Region time today to withdraw his name from the ballot for the governor’s race.
Trump’s selection of Pence, as well as his own nomination, still must be approved next week by delegates attending the Republican National Convention in Cleveland to be official. The convention begins Monday.
The details of how and when Trump offered the No. 2 post in his potential administration to Pence were not immediately available.
Pence long has harbored a well-known desire to make it to the White House, and the vice president’s office is just down the hall from the Oval Office in the West Wing.
In fact, Pence even had considered running for president himself in 2012, and his gubernatorial bid was seen as Pence checking the “executive experience” box on his resume as a prelude to an inevitable 2016 presidential campaign.
That did not come about largely due to Pence’s controversial tenure as governor.
But in the latest twist in the most unpredictable election in recent memory, Pence still is set to be on the national Republican ticket this year.
It’s a remarkable turn of events for Pence.
Just one year ago, the governor was something of a national laughingstock due to his inability to respond to claims that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which he helped push through the Republican-controlled General Assembly, authorized discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Hoosiers.
Facing potential boycotts of Indiana businesses and tourism sites, Pence quickly signed a RFRA “fix” that resolved the discrimination issue but angered his base of religious conservatives who wanted RFRA enacted in the first place.
Pence’s flip-flop and seeming capacity to make every group of voters simultaneously mad at him effectively ended any chance Pence had of winning the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
Instead, Pence announced last June — two days after Trump declared his run for president — that he’d seek a second term as governor.
While no Indiana governor who served a four-year first term ever has been denied a second term, Pence’s chances of making history as the first to lose re-election were looking disturbingly positive.
Polls of Hoosier voters conducted in April and May found Pence running slightly ahead of Democrat John Gregg in the governor’s race, but Pence’s lead was within the margin of error, and Gregg had raised significantly more money for his second race against Pence.
A blizzard of job announcements, ribbon-cuttings and county fair visits did little to improve Pence’s numbers, and he was forced to back off his longstanding “no negative campaigning” pledge to allow the Republican Governors Association PAC to attack Gregg in TV ads.
There’s no question Pence has a record as governor that should have helped him cruise to re-election: more Hoosiers are employed than at any time in the state’s history, Indiana’s budget is balanced with a $2 billion surplus and high school graduation rates never have been higher.
At the same time, many of Pence’s accomplishments only became law as face-saving measures approved by his Republican legislative allies to avoid embarrassing the governor who initially proposed unworkable or unaffordable tax cuts, and education and infrastructure programs.
He got a black eye in 2015 when aides planned to create a state-run news service to promote only positive stories about the governor and his administration.
Pence also revealed over time that he was not the second-coming of his predecessor, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who famously declared a “truce” on social issues to focus on the nuts-and-bolts of governing.
Rather, Pence pushed for expansive new abortion restrictions and a Trump-like ban on Syrian war refugees entering Indiana — policies that eventually were struck down in federal court.
He also constantly championed repeal of the Affordable Care Act, even though its Obamacare tax hikes funded the state’s Medicaid expansion program, known as Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, which covers the health needs of some 400,000 low-income Hoosiers.
Pence’s opportunity to leave all that behind first emerged in the weeks leading up to Indiana’s May 3 primary election.
Trump was leading the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich were continuing to compete in the hopes of denying Trump a first-ballot victory at the party’s national convention.
Kasich and Cruz even agreed to cooperate ahead of the Indiana primary, with Kasich effectively skipping the Hoosier contest so Cruz could unite the anti-Trump forces as he did in Wisconsin with the assistance of Gov. Scott Walker.
However, Pence refused to play along.
The governor did announce four days before the primary — after early voting already had been open nearly a month — that he would be voting for Cruz.
But Pence carefully avoided attacking Trump in his Cruz “endorsement,” and even praised the former Gary casino owner for giving voice “to the frustration of millions of working Americans with the lack of progress in Washington, D.C.”
Pence also broke with other prominent Republicans and promised to campaign for Trump if he won the nomination, which Trump effectively secured after Hoosier Republicans overwhelmingly picked him over Cruz and Kasich.
Trump since has said that Pence’s Cruz endorsement, which really was a backhanded compliment to Trump, is how Pence first caught his eye when he began considering potential running mates.
In addition, Pence was less critical than many others when Trump accused an East Chicago-born federal judge of bias in a civil lawsuit involving the allegedly fraudulent Trump University due to the judge’s Mexican heritage and Trump’s plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The governor said Trump’s remarks were “inappropriate,” but added that Trump, like all Americans, “is entitled to a fair trial and an impartial judge.”
As recently as mid-May, Pence insisted he had no interest in becoming Trump’s vice president.
“This is a great time for the state of Indiana, and I’m 100 percent focused on getting the job done and continuing to have a chance to serve the people of Indiana,” Pence said at a Speedway, Indiana, campaign event.
Nevertheless, Pence accepted Trump’s invitation to meet July 2 at a Trump golf course in New Jersey where they discussed the possibility of Pence joining Trump on the GOP ticket.
Pence also participated in Trump’s vetting process, as did former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, that required the governor to submit tax documents and other records for Trump advisers to pore over looking for potential pitfalls if Pence were to be selected as Trump’s running mate.
The warm feelings between the men only grew when Pence enthusiastically introduced Trump at a Tuesday rally near Indianapolis, before which Pence helped raise more than $1.5 million for Trump’s campaign.
Going forward, Pence now is a bona fide national political figure and either will become vice president in January or be well-positioned for his own presidential run in 2020.