By Eric Bradner, Dana Bash and MJ Lee
Donald Trump has called Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and offered him the vice-presidential slot on his ticket, CNN has learned. Pence has accepted.
The pick sets up a stark clash in styles: a brash presumptive nominee with a tendency to freelance into controversies alongside a cautious former congressional leader who’s stuck close to conservative orthodoxy since starting his career in talk radio.
The long-awaited decision caps a drama-filled, frenetic 24 hours.
On Wednesday, Trump held a series of auditions with Pence and other top contenders including Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich. And on Thursday, despite sources indicating to CNN that Trump was strongly leaning towards Pence, others in his inner circle — including Trump’s son, Donald Jr. — repeatedly urged caution.
But by early evening, Trump made the offer.
Trump had initially suggested he would wait until the Republican National Convention to unveil his vice presidential choice, 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 selection gives Trump a running mate with strong ties to the Republican base — particularly social conservatives. He was among the first Republicans to embrace the tea party on Capitol Hill. And as governor of Indiana, he faced major political backlash over his decision to sign into law a “religious freedom” measure that infuriated major businesses that saw it as anti-LGBT.
In tapping Pence, Trump adds to the GOP ticket a politician with ties to the Koch brothers and other influential donors who have so far stayed away from Trump.
Pence is seen as a safer political option for Trump, who also considered candidates who mirror his hard-line personality such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. But Pence made clear this week that he’s more than willing to play the role of attack dog, strongly criticizing Hillary Clinton during a rally with Trump.
Clinton, Pence told the applauding crowd, “must never become president of the United States.”