WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican Donald Trump chose Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate on Thursday, U.S. media reported, a move that will put at Trump’s side a conservative with the potential to unify divided Republicans.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee is to announce his choice on Friday at 11 a.m. in Manhattan. The choice of Pence was first reported by Roll Call and the New York Times and CBS also said this was his pick.
Sources had earlier told Reuters that Trump was leaning toward Pence.
Trump is to be formally nominated as the party’s candidate for the Nov. 8 election at the Republican National Convention next week in Cleveland. Traditionally, the vice presidential choice is used to build enthusiasm among party loyalists.
Trump’s choice of running mate is seen as critical because his defeat of 16 rivals in the Republican primary race left the party divided and some party leaders are still uneasy about some of his campaign positions, and his style.
Roll Call said Trump was reportedly impressed with Pence’s calm demeanor, his experience on Capitol Hill and as a governor, and Pence’s potential to assist in governing if Trump wins in November. Trump, a New York businessman, has never held elected office.
Trump had also considered former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as finalists.
Gingrich told an ABC News correspondent earlier that he expected to hear Trump’s decision after 1 p.m. EDT and would not be surprised if Trump chose Pence.
Pence, 57, a former congressman, is seen as a safe choice, not too flashy but popular among conservatives, with Midwestern appeal and the ability to rally more party faithful behind Trump.
Pence and Trump spent time this month testing their chemistry at Trump’s golf course in New Jersey and at the governor’s residence in Indiana, Roll Call said.
Pence had backed a Trump rival, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, in April before the Indiana primary, but he praised Trump and said he would work on behalf of the eventual Republican nominee. Trump won Indiana anyway, prompting Cruz to drop out of the party race to be the nominee for the election.
Pence had considered running for president himself in 2016 before deciding to run for re-election as governor. Conservatives had urged him to seek the White House, but missteps in 2015 related to an Indiana law seen as anti-gay hurt his national profile.
This year, he was the target of a mocking social media campaign by women outraged at a law he signed creating new restrictions on abortions. Feeling that the law invaded their privacy, women responded by calling Pence’s office to describe their menstrual periods or tweeting similar messages.
Pence ran unsuccessfully for Congress twice before he was elected to the House of Representatives in 2000, where he was chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservatives.
FLURRY OF MEETINGS
In what has been an unusually public process of making his choice of running mate, Trump, 70, sat down with both Pence and Gingrich separately in Indianapolis on Wednesday.
He also met with a fourth potential No. 2, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, 69, of Alabama, who has been one of Trump’s closest advisers.
Trump had dinner with Pence on Tuesday night after they appeared together at a rally. Joined by daughter Ivanka and sons Donald Jr. and Eric Trump, Trump also had breakfast with Pence and his wife, Karen, on Wednesday at the governor’s residence in Indianapolis.
Trump adviser Ed Brookover told CNN that Trump “first and foremost” wants a running mate who he has good chemistry with and someone who can help him govern best.
(Reporting By Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Frances Kerry. Caricature via DonkeyHotey)