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Pence to meet with Trump amid VP vetting process

July 1, 2016
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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will meet with Donald Trump over the weekend amid speculation that he could join the Republican's presidential ticket.

A spokesman for the Pence's re-election campaign says Friday that Pence will "spend a little time" with Trump this weekend.

Spokesman Marc Lotter says the meeting is consistent with other meetings Trump is having with GOP party leaders in the run-up to the GOP's summer convention. He declined to comment on the exact purpose, or if Pence was being considered as a potential vice presidential pick.

When asked about Pence as a potential running mate this week, Trump described him as "somebody we respect a lot."

Pence is well regarded among conservatives and has strong backing among many evangelical leaders in the Republican Party. He faces a difficult re-election battle in Indiana, due in part to his support for socially conservative policies.

Trump has begun formally vetting prospective vice presidential picks.

The New York billionaire is considering former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, among what he previously described as a short list of possible running mates. Their inclusion was confirmed by people with direct knowledge of the vetting process who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.

Trump begins the vetting process with less than three weeks before the start of the Republican National Convention, when he said he would publicly unveil his pick.

Gingrich and Christie, who both received vetting paperwork in the last 24 hours, emerged as prominent Trump allies in recent months, even as the presumptive nominee faced deep and sustained skepticism from many GOP leaders. Trump's relationship with other would-be running mates was badly strained in the bruising Republican primary season, leaving him with a small pool of willing and qualified candidates.

Trump on Thursday acknowledged Christie was under consideration.

"I'm certainly looking at him and I always will. Whether it's for that or something else," Trump told conservative radio host Howie Carr. He later described Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as "somebody we respect a lot."

The meeting this weekend raises questions about what it would mean for Pence's gubernatorial re-election campaign at home. If Pence were to become Trump's vice presidential nominee, state law dictates that he could not run for both offices.

Pence was once viewed as a possible presidential candidate and served in Congress for 12 years before he was elected Indiana's governor in 2012 in a narrow victory over Democrat John Gregg. His popularity has since fallen.

Under Pence, who has described himself as "a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order," Indiana has marched to the front lines of the nation's culture wars. In 2015 he drew mostly negative attention to the state after signing a law that critics say would have allowed businesses to deny service to gay people for religious reasons. Groups threatened boycotts, late-night television shows mocked the policy and a coalition of gay rights supporters and business interests successfully demanded that lawmakers approve changes.

While speculation that Pence could be a vice presidential pick for Trump created significant buzz in national political circles, it drew a mixed response in Indiana.

Curt Smith, an influential Indiana evangelical figure, said Pence would be an excellent choice for Trump, who is viewed skeptically by evangelicals and movement conservatives.

"He would be extremely reassuring to conservatives in general and evangelicals in particular," Smith said. "He had a leadership role in Congress and would be able to be the president's lead on Capitol Hill."

Devin Anderson, a longtime Indiana Republican said Pence has done a good job presiding over an improving economy and plummeting unemployment rate, which Republicans credit to the state's low taxes and limits on regulation.

"It seems to me that the governor should continue to press his case to Hoosier voters in this governor's race, which is still a tight race," said Anderson, a businessman who previously worked for GOP members of the state's congressional delegation. "It's critical that Mike Pence remains governor and keep Indiana on a good path."

Gregg's campaign seized on the news.

"Mike Pence has always put his own political agenda ahead of everything and everyone else. For him running for governor was never about serving Hoosiers, it has always been about using the office to get into even higher office," Gregg campaign spokesman Jeff Harris said. "Just look at the extreme social agenda he's pushed as governor. It's been more focused on establishing his conservative credentials and building a national profile than on improving the lives of everyday Hoosiers."

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