Indiana Gov. Mike Pence got his turn to audition to be Donald Trump’s vice presidential pick Tuesday, using the opportunity to compare the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to Ronald Reagan while branding Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton as an “extremely careless” choice for the White House.
With the Republican National Convention set to open next week in Cleveland, Pence was the latest potential VP choice to showcase himself for Trump, introducing him at a campaign rally in Westfield, Indiana.
Unlike New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who touted his work as a hard-nosed federal prosecutor before Trump spoke Monday, Pence spent little of his nearly six-minute introduction talking about himself and more time praising Trump and attacking Clinton.
“We’re ready to put a fighter, a builder, and a patriot in the Oval Office of the United States of America – we’re ready for Donald Trump to be our next president,” said Pence, who previously endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for president. “Donald Trump understands the frustrations and hopes of the American people like other American leader in my lifetime since Ronald Reagan.”
Turning his attention to Clinton, Pence borrowed a phrase from FBI Director James Comey’s assessment of the former secretary of state’s handling of sensitive emails and said “I think it would be ‘extremely careless’ to elect Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States.”
“We don’t need a president who sees Obamacare as just a good start,” he said. “We don’t need a president who promises to put coal miners out of work and raise of hard-working Americans.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., campaigned with Trump in Ohio and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014, appeared on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, but he infuriated some conservatives with his comments supporting legalized abortion.
Meanwhile, Gingrich and Fox News suspended the former House speaker’s contributor agreement amid the Trump VP speculation.
Gingrich told Fox on Tuesday that he thought Trump would announce as soon as Wednesday but no later than Friday, so as to “dominate the weekend news with the new vice presidential selection.”
In the end, this is a very personal decision by Donald Trump. . . . He may think all of us are pretty competent but he’s got to say, ‘If I am going to be president for the next four to eight years, I want to have somebody with me for the next four to eight years.’
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Fox News
He said he had no idea whom Trump would pick, but mentioned that Pence and Christie were in the running and that he was “part of the process.”
“It’s a little bit like ‘The Apprentice’: You’ll find out sooner or later who the last one standing is,” he said. Asked whether he was interested in the position, Gingrich said, “As a citizen, if you had an opportunity to help lead the country, I don’t see how you could turn it down.”
If Trump wants Pence, and Pence is interested in the job, both men will have to move quickly this week. Pence faces a Friday deadline to decide whether to continue his gubernatorial re-election bid.
Indiana law prohibits him from running for vice president and governor at the same time.
Pence’s stock for vice president has increased within Republican circles in recent days, largely because he seems to check all the boxes on what Trump is looking for in a running mate.
“I think it would be a smart move,” said Steve Duprey, a Republican national committeeman from New Hampshire. “He’s got a wide array of experience, good relationships on Capitol Hill.”
But Pence isn’t well-known among the nation’s voters. He’s a blank slate to 56 percent of them, a McClatchy-Marist Poll found. In the Midwest, where he was elected to Congress and serves as governor, 58 percent of voters haven’t heard of him.
If Trump taps Pence, his strongest backing would come from tea party supporters, who like him by 27 to 17 percent, and conservatives who view him favorably by 19 to 14 percent.
The 57-year-old, white-haired Pence was elected governor in 2012 after serving 12 years in the House of Representatives. He served one term as the House Republican Conference chair under then-House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Pence is telegenic and media-savvy. He was a conservative radio talk-show host in the 1990s who described himself as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.”
The governor could add ice to Trump’s fiery bombast on the campaign trail. One of Pence’s favorite quotes is “I’m a conservative. But I’m not angry about it.”
In Congress, he opposed the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind education law, the federal bailout of banks and Medicare Part D.
“He brings a lot of strength to the ticket in terms of appeal to social conservatives, which Trump has had problems with,” said former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., the director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University.
Not all conservatives are impressed with Pence. Conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson wrote on The Resurgent Monday that “Mike Pence would actually be the perfect vice presidential pick for Donald Trump because he lacks the courage of his convictions and would absolutely not overshadow Donald Trump.”
“He gives Trump the veneer of conservatism without anyone ever having to worry that he’d actually fight for those principles,” Erickson wrote in a post bashing Pence’s political accomplishments.
Pence came under fire last year when signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a bill that supporters said would protect companies and individuals from government actions that would substantially burden religious practices.
The governor suggested that the bill mirrored a 1993 federal measure signed by President Bill Clinton, as well as laws in 19 other states.
But critics called the Indiana law a license to discriminate and Pence faced backlash from inside the Hoosier State and nationwide.
The Indianapolis-based National Collegiate Athletic Association criticized the bill as it hosted the Final Four basketball tournament in the city and large conventions threatened to pull out of the state in objection to the law.
The governor later signed a revised version of the bill that included language that the measure cannot be used to discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Pence also drew criticism for planning to create a state-run news outlet with taxpayer dollars. The outlet would provide news stories and releases written by state press secretaries, The Indianapolis Star reported in January 2015.
He scrapped the idea after it produced national headlines like The Atlantic’s “Pravda on the Plains: Indiana’s New Propaganda Machine.”