Potential replacements emerge in case Trump taps Pence

July 5, 2016

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence faces a tight deadline to withdraw from the state's gubernatorial race if he is selected to be Donald Trump's vice presidential pick.

Indiana Republicans are already speculating about who would replace Pence in the governor's race, even though Pence's selection is far from certain and the presumed GOP presidential nominee is vetting several candidates.

If chosen, Pence has until noon on July 15 to withdraw his name from the ballot because state law bars him from appearing as both a vice presidential candidate and a candidate for governor. The state committee of the Indiana Republican Party would then have 30 days to choose a replacement, the law states.

On Tuesday, a staffer for Republican Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said in a written statement that the second-term mayor received phone calls over the weekend encouraging him to step forward if Pence opts out of the race.

"Mayor Winnecke has indeed received calls encouraging consideration to run for governor in the event that the current GOP ticket changes," the statement read. "He is giving those requests their due consideration, but it is important to note that Mayor Winnecke has not made any pro-active efforts to seek the position of Governor or as a Lt. Governor running mate."

Other prominent GOP names that have been discussed include U.S. Reps. Susan Brooks and Todd Rokita, state House Speaker Brian Bosma—who has not been coy about his gubernatorial ambitions—and Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, who was recently appointed by Pence to replace Sue Ellspermann, who stepped down from the post in March.

Pence, who was warmly praised by Trump following a weekend meeting, has sought to downplay his interest in the position. He recently told reporters in Indiana that he is focused on his re-election as governor.

Democrats, however, aren't buying it. And they point out that Pence previously had presidential ambitions of his own, even though he ruled out a run last year after his approval rating slumped following negative publicity resulting from his signing of the state's religious freedom law.

"The lieutenant governor bailed and now he's trying to bail," said Pence's opponent, Democratic former state House Speaker John Gregg. "Y'know, at our house when you spill something, you clean up the mess. Gov. Pence is wanting to move on. He's created a mess and he's not wanting to clean it up."

Trump has never held public office and is considering a small group of political veterans as potential running mates. Pence served 12 years in Congress before he was elected governor in 2012.

People with direct knowledge of Trump's vetting process say the list includes Pence, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions. Trump also had a meeting with Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst.

The billionaire businessman tweeted Monday: "Spent time with Indiana Governor Mike Pence and family yesterday. Very impressed, great people!"

Here's a look at some of the men and women Trump has met with besides Pence and is said to be considering:


Trump has long said that he's looking for an experienced insider with enough knowledge of Congress to push his agenda. If that's what he wants, there's arguably no one more qualified than the former speaker of the House of Representatives who engineered a "Republican revolution" on Capitol Hill in the 1990s.

Newt Gingrich, who launched a run for president four years ago, has become an informal Trump adviser and brings a wealth of policy ideas to the table along with deep connections.

But he's also made clear that he's not afraid of criticizing Trump publicly—something Trump does not typically embrace.

Concerns, however, abound: Some Trump allies also worry that Gingrich's presence on the ticket would turn the race into a re-enactment of his 90s-era battles with Bill and Hillary Clinton. Gingrich was speaker during Bill Clinton's presidency and was one of the leading advocates for Clinton's impeachment.

Another question: How would the two mercurial personalities not used to partnerships share the spotlight?

The pair has been married six times combined.


In the months since his surprise endorsement, the New Jersey governor has become one of Trump's closest confidantes, offering advice during crises and appearing by Trump's side at public events and fundraisers. Christie is also one of his party's most effective attack dogs and a talented retail campaigner, and has proven to be a crowd-pleaser on the trail.

The two have also been friends for more than a decade.

But a Christie selection would also come with considerable baggage.

The George Washington Bridge scandal has recently re-emerged with questions over what happened to the cellphone Christie used during the aftermath of the controversy and the potential release of a list of unindicted co-conspirators in the case.

Two former Christie allies were indicted last year for allegedly closing access lanes to the bridge in September 2013 to punish a local Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie, a Republican. The criminal trial involving former Christie aides is scheduled to begin in September — at what would be the height of the presidential contest.

Christie's poll numbers have slumped in New Jersey, and the state's economic woes could become an issue on the trail.


Currently the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Corker would bring serious foreign policy chops to a Trump ticket. He spent the day with Trump on Tuesday and appeared with him at a rally in North Carolina, where he briefly showered Trump with praise.

Corker, standing a foot shorter than the candidate, said he'd had "a pretty remarkable day" with Trump and his grown children, calling the experience an "incredible privilege." Trump returned the favor, calling Corker "a great friend" and "somebody respected by everybody." The pair hugged before Corker left the stage.

Corker was one of the highest-profile Republicans to praise a major foreign policy speech Trump delivered this spring. But he has also not shied away from criticizing the billionaire businessman, including over Trump's attacks against a Hispanic judge. Corker also is a prominent former businessman and shares Trump's background in the construction and real estate industries.

A few years ago, Corker wondered aloud whether the gridlocked Senate was worth a grown man's time and considered retiring. But after the 2014 elections, he was named chairman of the vaunted committee. As such, Corker has a leadership role on the weightiest question to face members of Congress: whether to authorize war.


The first senator to endorse Trump's presidential bid, Sessions has become a top cheerleader and close Trump confidant, especially when it comes to shaping his policy positions. The two share similar approaches on a host of issues, including hard-line views on halting illegal immigration.

Sessions is not as well-known as some of Trump's other choices, and it's unclear whether his mild-mannered persona would deliver the kind of splashy punch Trump is hoping to achieve with the announcement of his running mate.

But Sessions, who previously served as U.S. attorney in Alabama, has proven a loyal resource and ally—roles that Trump especially favors.


Ernst shot to national fame in 2014 with a TV ad in which she boasted about castrating pigs and promising to cut the pork in Washington and "make 'em squeal."

A former state lawmaker and military veteran with a rural upbringing, Ernst has been considered a rising star in the Republican Party since she became Iowa's first woman in Congress in 2014.

In addition to adding military experience to the ticket, Ernst's inclusion might also help Trump improve his appeal among women voters, with whom he currently lags.

But Ernst also has just two years of federal government experience and many top Iowa observers say they would be surprised to see her picked.

The pair met on Monday and had "a good conversation" about issues concerning Iowans, she said in a statement. But Ernst did not say whether the vice presidency was discussed.


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