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Trump picks ultraconservative Indiana governor as running mate

Mike Pence's job will be to bridge gap with Republican Party

Donald Trump and Indiana Governor Mike Pence address the crowd on June 12.
Donald Trump and Indiana Governor Mike Pence address the crowd on June 12. REUTERS

Donald Trump has chosen Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his running mate on the Republican ticket, campaign sources have told The New York Times and other national media. Pence, a religious man who is well-liked among conservatives, will be tasked with calming the waters between Trump and some sectors of the Republican Party, as well as helping him connect with the GOP machine.

The Republican presidential candidate was expected to announce his vice presidential pick on Friday, but he decided to postpone the announcement in light of the terror attack in Nice, France that caused more than 80 deaths.

Trump’s number two has to help the campaign strike a presidential tone that the showman’s language, always controversial and at times racist and sexist, has failed to meet. While the Democratic Party is closing ranks around Hillary Clinton, Trump, an outsider to politics, is still overcoming resistance among Republicans just days before the Republican National Convention begins in Cleveland where the party is due to officially nominate him as its candidate for November’s elections. One sign of this resistance is the fact that no important GOP figures - former presidents or former candidates - have signed on to speak at the conference.

During the primaries, Mike Pence threw his support behind far-right conservative Texas senator Ted Cruz before endorsing Trump, but only after Cruz dropped out of the race. Among the more conservative Republicans, Pence signed a law that allowed businesses to deny service to gay couples if the owners felt doing so would violate their religious freedom. But as protests grew, the state had to walk back the initiative.

Christian, conservative and Republican

Mike Pence was born and raised in Columbus, Indiana, earning a law degree from Indiana University. Before he became governor, he served in the House of Representatives for 10 years. During his tenure in Washington, he was known for defending limited government, fiscal discipline, strong national defense and traditional moral values, according to his biography on the Indiana governor’s official website.

“I am a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order,” he has said in the past. Pence has even received compliments from Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives who had a hard time offering his support to his party’s presumptive nominee. In fact, Ryan urged the businessman turned politician to choose a “conservative” running mate a few days ago.

Trump and Pence have been testing their chemistry on the golf course in New Jersey and spending time together at the Governor’s Residence in Indiana. They held a campaign event together on Tuesday in Westfield, Indiana where the governor said: “Here in Indiana we know that strong Republican leadership works. And that’s exactly the kind of no-nonsense leadership that Donald Trump is going to bring to the White House this November.” “We are ready for a change...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.”

Despite such enthusiastic praise, Pence has disagreed with Trump on several points since the New York real estate giant announced his bid for the White House last summer. “Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional,” Pence tweeted in December 2015. He also defended free trade agreements that Trump called into question saying that they helped create jobs.

The Trump campaign has said the vice presidential nominee must be someone who can often assume presidential duties. Before Pence was chosen, the press speculated about other possible vice presidential choices, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, General Michael Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House of Representatives.

English version by Dyane Jean-François

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