NEW YORK – Donald Trump formally unveiled Mike Pence as his running mate on Saturday, capping a chaotic roll out that sources say included a dramatic night of soul-searching on whether he had settled on the right man.
The presumptive Republican nominee stood side-by-side on stage with the Indiana governor in Manhattan — 24 hours later than planned, since Trump postponed the original event in the wake of the terror attack in Nice, France.
Trump’s selection of Pence — who is seen as a safe pair of hands in Washington — was one of the most conventional steps the billionaire has taken in an unorthodox campaign.
His pick lost much of the political impact that campaigns normally try to build around a vice presidential selection due to a disorganized and leak-prone process. It revealed a candidate second-guessing himself over his decision and a campaign that doesn’t seem ready for prime-time.
In the end, and appropriately given the role of social media in his campaign, Trump took to Twitter on Friday to unveil the worst-kept secret in politics — that he had chosen Pence to round out the GOP ticket.
On Saturday, he took to Twitter again, seeking to rebut reports that he experienced second thoughts about picking Pence, whom he does not know well, insisting he had wanted him all along.
“Look forward to introducing Governor Mike Pence (who has done a spectacular job in the great State of Indiana). My first choice from start!,” Trump wrote.
Trump and Pence hope to fire up Republican grassroots voters over their new partnership and build momentum as they march towards the Republican National Convention, which begins in Cleveland on Monday.
The nomination sets up a stark clash in styles between Trump, a brash presumptive nominee with a tendency to freelance into controversies juxtaposed with a cautious former congressional leader who’s stuck close to conservative orthodoxy since starting his career in talk radio.
Pence quickly moved into line with some of Trump’s most controversial policies before the roll out.
He said in an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News on Friday that he was “very supportive” of the presumptive Republican nominee’s call to temporarily ban immigration from nations where there is heavy terrorist activity.
When Trump first announced a more stringent plan for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” in December, Pence said it was “offensive and unconstitutional.”
The Indiana governor also backed Trump’s proposal for a wall on the southern U.S. border and said Mexico would “absolutely” pay for it.
Pence got an early look at the roller coaster ride he has signed up for over the next four months in the immediate hours after Trump called him to offer him the job and he flew to New York expecting things to be made official on Friday.
He arrived in New York late Thursday only to be alerted by an aide to a Fox News interview in which Trump was insisted he had not yet made a “final, final decision,” despite already asking Pence to be his No 2.
Trump, multiple sources told CNN, was troubled by his gut feeling that he should have gone with his friend, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie instead, and made calls to his children and campaign chairman Paul Manafort, but was told he could not.
The Trump campaign has denied the reports that Trump had a sudden crisis of confidence over his pick of Pence, which have put the Indiana governor in an awkward position at the moment of joining the Republican ticket.
The Clinton campaign on Saturday sought to capitalize on the fitful vice presidential roll out, releasing a web video mocking the billionaire for being indecisive despite running a campaign based on his decision-making skills.
Pence put a brave face on the drama in an interview with Indiana TV station Fox59 on Friday.
“I’m excited to be joining the ticket tomorrow with Donald Trump. I think he’ll be a great president and I look forward to carrying his message all across this country in the months ahead and serving with him in the next administration,” Pence said.
Trump had initially suggested he would wait until the Republican National Convention to unveil his vice presidential choice, but Indiana law forced his hand. Candidates can’t run for both federal and state office after July 15, meaning Pence had to withdraw his name from his re-election race for governor.
Pence’s attorney Matt Morgan filed the paperwork Friday with the Indiana secretary of state, formally withdrawing him from the governor race.
Pence, 57, was born in Columbus, Indiana, a town about 40 miles south of Indianapolis, where his father ran a chain of gas stations.
A former chairman of the House Republican Conference, he was an early tea party ally, but the staunch social conservative struggled in his sole term as governor of Indiana when he got caught in controversy over LGBT rights.
He did, however, shepherd into law a series of tax cuts in Indiana — slightly reducing the state’s income tax and speeding up the phase-out of its inheritance tax. He’s also overseen a state budget that’s in the black.
In addition, he persuaded President Barack Obama’s administration to accept a state-launched alternative to Medicaid as the vehicle for expanded coverage through Obama’s signature health care law.