INDIANAPOLIS — Former Gary casino owner Donald Trump is returning to central Indiana today for a campaign fundraiser and rally in his first visit to the state since effectively clinching the Republican presidential nomination in the May 3 Hoosier primary.
One item likely not on Trump’s agenda for his Indiana trip is naming his vice presidential running mate.
The business mogul told the Washington Post Monday that he still is deciding between five possible candidates, including Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and expects to “make my mind up over the next three to four days.”
Numerous Hoosier Republicans quietly hoped Trump would combine his Indiana campaign stop with the announcement that he had selected Pence for vice president.
But the first-term governor and former six-term congressman admitted Monday that he has not spoken directly to Trump since a meeting last weekend at a Trump golf club in New Jersey, and no offer to join the GOP ticket is imminent.
Nevertheless, Pence said he is ready and willing to hit the campaign trail promoting Trump’s leadership skills and support for nominating conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices.
“I’m prepared to make that case anywhere across Indiana and anywhere across this country that Donald Trump would want me to,” Pence said.
Pence is scheduled to introduce Trump to supporters at the 6:30 p.m. Region time rally in the Grand Park Events Center, located in the north suburban Indianapolis city of Westfield.
Other potential Trump vice presidents, including former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, similarly have introduced Trump at recent rallies, echoing the skills competitions Trump regularly used to pick a top aide on his former reality television program, “The Apprentice.”
If selected, Pence likely would help secure the conservative base of the Republican Party for Trump whose three marriages and bevy of tabloid headlines might be overlooked by religious voters who like that Pence considers himself “a Christian, conservative and Republican — in that order.”
Prior to the rally, Pence will join Trump and a veritable who’s who of Hoosier Republicans at the venerable Columbia Club on Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis for a private fundraiser.
Ticket prices for the event range from $2,700 to $250,000.
Among those designated as hosts are three individuals likely to seek approval from the Republican State Central Committee to replace Pence as the GOP gubernatorial candidate if Trump selects Pence as his running mate: House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis; Republican Chairman Jeff Cardwell; and state Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis.
Also reportedly interested in succeeding Pence in the governor’s race are Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb; Indianapolis U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, a Munster native; U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Carmel; and Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke.
In addition, former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who now is president of Purdue University, declined Monday to entirely rule out seeking a return to his old job as Indiana’s chief executive.
Pence is required by state law to withdraw from the gubernatorial ballot before 11 a.m. Region time Friday to be eligible to run with Trump.
GOP leaders then would have 30 days to decide who they want to put up against the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, John Gregg.