INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Mike Pence is dropping his re-election bid in Indiana to become Donald Trump’s running mate.
IndyStar has confirmed that Trump plans to announce Pence as his selection for vice president, ending a weeks-long vice presidential casting callduring which Trump vetted a handful of high-profile Republicans.
Trump’s national campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said “a decision has not been made.” A formal announcement is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday in Manhattan.
The long-awaited decision upends the political landscape in Indiana and at least partially remakes the Trump campaign in Pence’s image.
In Pence, Trump has added a social conservative who GOP strategists say will reassure rank-and-file Republicans that Trump can be trusted to pursue their interests. Veteran political observers say Pence, a former U.S. House member and chairman of the House Republican Conference, will provide a disciplined counter to Trump’s improvisational campaign style. Pence also brings fundraising power and credibility on a wide range of policy issues that are important to conservatives.
Pence is set to officially become the vice presidential nominee during the Republican National Convention, which starts July 18 in Cleveland. He could become the first vice president from Indiana since Dan Quayle took office in 1989 under George H.W. Bush.
Pence’s departure for national politics sets up a scramble among Indiana Republicans to determine who will replace Pence to run against Democratic challenger John Gregg in the November gubernatorial election.
For the first time in state history, the Indiana Republican State Committee will determine the GOP candidate for governor in a process that could last into August. The 22-member panel has 30 days from the date Pence officially withdraws his candidacy to choose Pence’s replacement on the ballot.
Once it’s clear who will be vying for the Republican nomination, the committee must provide a 10-day notice before it votes. That means, at the earliest, the process will conclude in late July.
The field of candidates already includes at least two elected officials. Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita have declared their intentions to run.
Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has not yet publicly said he will seek the office, is thought to be a frontrunner. U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks of Carmel also could be a candidate.
Pence’s elevation in the political world comes as he faced a tight race in Indiana. The most recent poll, which was conducted in May, showed Pence leading Gregg 40 percent to 36 percent, a virtual tie when factoring in the 4 percent margin of error. Pence defeated Gregg in the 2012 race by 3 percentage points.
Pence, a vocal Trump supporter since he clinched the Republican nomination, will turn his attention toward helping the real estate mogul defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in November. Even without Pence, Trump has been closing the gap. A national CBS News/New York Times poll released this week shows Clinton and Trump tied at 40 percent just one month after Clinton had a 6 percentage point lead. Yet, projections based on state polls suggest Clinton has an advantage, albeit a diminishing one.
Trump appeared to have winnowed the field from about 10 people last week in what some have compared to a reality-TV show. Aside from Pence, the other favorites were thought to be former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
A couple prospective running mates withdrew their names from consideration in the days leading up to Trump’s decision, including a pair of U.S. senators, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Joni Ernst of Iowa. Ernst suggested Pence should get the nod while saying she was focused on serving Iowa in the Senate.
Pence, Ernst told Politico, is “so well-rounded, served as a governor and I think he’s a great conservative.”
Then Pence essentially auditioned for the position during a Trump rally and fundraiser on Tuesday. Pence, who has traditionally eschewed negative campaigning, attacked Clinton for the loss of U.S. personnel in Benghazi and compared Trump to Ronald Reagan.
A frenzied series of meeting in Indianapolis followed the campaign appearance. Trump and his family unexpectedly dined with Pence and his wife at a swanky Downtown restaurant Tuesday night, then had breakfast at the governor’s residence the next morning. Gingrich and Sessions then flew to Indianapolis for meetings of their own with Trump and his family.