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What you need to know about Trump’s VP pick, Mike Pence

BY and   July 15, 2016 at 11:09 AM EST
 Donald Trump shakes hands with Indiana Governor Mike Pence before addressing the crowd during a campaign stop at the Grand Park Events Center in Westfield, Indiana, July 12, 2016. Photo by John Sommers II/Reuters

Donald Trump shakes hands with Indiana Governor Mike Pence before addressing the crowd during a campaign stop at the Grand Park Events Center in Westfield, Indiana, July 12, 2016. Photo by John Sommers II/Reuters

Donald Trump announced on Friday that he has chosen Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate, ending months of speculation and a frenzied final few days that included a postponement of the announcement due to Thursday’s deadly attack in France.

Pence, a former congressman and talk show host, beat out a short list of potential vice presidential picks that included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Trump was scheduled to roll out his pick in New York today, but postponed the announcement yesterday after a truck driver killed at least 84 people on a seaside promenade in the southern French city of Nice. Trump’s decision to delay his announcement set off rumors that he remained undecided and was leaning against choosing Pence.

As recently as last night, campaign insiders said the decision would come over the weekend. But Trump took to Twitter today to announce that he had settled on Pence.

“I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate,” Trump said on Twitter. He added that he would hold a formal news conference on Saturday.

Pence boosts the Trump ticket in several ways, giving the real estate mogul an experienced, career politician from a key Rust Belt state who is well liked in conservative circles.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta responded quickly to the news, calling Pence in a statement “the most extreme [vice presidential] pick in a generation.”

Podesta singled out Pence’s opposition to immigration reform, along with his controversial religious freedom law, while also slamming his economic record as governor.

“Pence has been no economic leader or friend to the American worker. In fact, he wants to get rid of the very wages that make the middle class possible.”

Pence boosts the Trump ticket in several ways, giving the real estate mogul an experienced, career politician from a key Rust Belt state who is well liked in conservative circles.

Ahead of Trump’s announcement, Republican leaders responded positively to early reports that Pence would be the party’s vice presidential nominee.

“It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Mike Pence,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters on Thursday. “I hope that he picks a good movement conservative, and clearly Mike is one of those.”

But Pence also comes with some liabilities for Trump, who has struggled to expand his support beyond the core group of Republican primary voters who carried him to the nomination.

Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of Trump’s vice presidential pick, along with a look at a how it could shape the election.

PRO: Appeal to conservative base

Pence is a Republican’s Republican. He grew up in Columbus, Indiana, and hosted a conservative radio and television show in the 1990s. After two failed congressional bids in 1988 and 1990, Pence won the state’s 6th congressional seat in 2000 and served in the House for a dozen years.

Pence has an A rating from the National Rifle Association, and a zero percent rating from the pro-choice group NARAL.

Pence rose through the House GOP ranks to become chairman of the House Republican Conference. Pence ran successfully for governor in 2012.

During his last year in the House, the right-leaning lobbying group The American Conservative Union gave him an 100 percent rating. Pence also has an A rating from the National Rifle Association, and a zero percent rating from the pro-choice group NARAL.

Political observers said Pence’s track record in Congress would help shore up support among evangelical and conservative voters who remain skeptical of Trump’s past comments on social issues like abortion. During the primaries Trump said he supports federal funding for non-abortion services at Planned Parenthood, angering many conservatives who oppose the organization.

PRO: Plenty of political experience

Trump has no official political experience — he’s the first major party nominee who hasn’t held elected office since Dwight Eisenhower. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has made that a central theme of her campaign, arguing that Trump isn’t ready to take on the responsibilities of serving as president.

Pence, on the other hand, has more than 16 years’ worth of experience in elected office. Pence knows how Congress works, and has spent the last four years running a state— executive experience often considered translatable to the presidency.

“He meets the criteria that Trump has publicly set, which is someone with Washington experience that can go up to the Hill and help him pass his agenda,” Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak said.

On the campaign trail, Pence can claim that he ran the state successfully while holding strong to his conservative principles, positioning himself as an effective leader with experienced reaching across the aisle.

Pence earned praise from Democrats last year when he expanded Medicaid under the state’s own model rather than under the method the Obama administration outlined under the Affordable Care Act.

“He’s had a lot of experience,” said Juliana Bergeron, a Republican national committeewoman from New Hampshire. “Donald Trump needs that.”

PRO: Disciplined demeanor

Watch Pence give a speech, and you will immediately see the contrast between him and Trump. Trump speaks off the cuff, often saying whatever comes to mind — though he has given more scripted speeches in recent weeks in the run up to the convention. Pence is steady and deliberate, with a habit of pausing before answering questions.

Pence is steady and deliberate, with a habit of pausing before answering questions.

“[Pence] doesn’t really fit with Trump’s brand. Trump likes blunt and brash outsiders,” Mackowiak said.

Still, Mackowiak added, someone with a quieter demeanor is likely better for the ticket because it could ease the fears of voters who think Trump goes off-script too often.

CON: Little appeal beyond the GOP-base

While Pence might bring more establishment Republicans to the polls, he does little to draw in voters outside the party’s base. In fact, his staunch conservative stances on gay rights and women’s issues have made him enemies in those demographics.

“But at the same time, Trump has claimed he is attracting people who haven’t been participating, and he might be counting on that to expand beyond the typical base,” Furman University political science professor Danielle Vinson said.

Trump likely did not have many other options besides white males like Pence.

At least two minority Republican female governors — South Carolina’s Nikki Haley and New Mexico’s Susana Martinez — made clear they were not interested in the job.

CON: His views don’t always align with Donald Trump

Pence has publicly disagreed with Trump on several issues, most notably Trump’s call to ban on Muslims entering the country, setting up some awkward policy differences at the top of the ticket.

In a tweet last year, Pence called the ban “offensive and unconstitutional.”

Pence has also been a strong supporter of free trade and is a “hawk” on national security—a contrast to Trump, who has advocated for repealing free-trade agreements and cutting back on support to NATO.

“I don’t know that you have to agree on everything, but there are obviously some glaring differences there from an ideological standpoint,” Mackowiak said.

CON: A governorship marred by controversy

During his four years as governor, Pence has been involved in multiple controversies.

He made national headlines last year when he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which opponents said allowed businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation.

That sparked a major backlash from businesses, including the Indianapolis-based NCAA. The state legislature eventually changed the law to specifically protect members of the LGBT community from discrimination.

But soon after that was resolved, Pence found himself criticized for his plans to start a state-run news agency. The governor’s team walked that back and said they did not intend it to replace media organizations, but local journalists remained skeptical.

And his support of abortion restrictions sparked outrage earlier this year, prompting women to call his office and tell his staff about their monthly periods.

Vinson predicted Democrats would use those controversies against the vice presidential candidate in swing states, in hopes of swaying voters toward Clinton.

“Especially with Trump not having his own record to run on in terms of politics, the assumption will be he must be OK with [what] Mike Pence is doing, or if nothing else that Pence would be an important advisor,” Vinson said.

Geoffrey Guray and Ellis Kim contributed reporting.


Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Susana Martinez as the governor of Arizona and misspelled her first name. Martinez is the governor of New Mexico.

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