Trump postpones VP announcement, citing France attacks

Julie Pace and Jill Colvin
Associated Press

Washington — After a day of rampant speculation, Donald Trump late Thursday abruptly postponed plans to announce his vice presidential pick, citing the “horrible attack” in Nice, France, that left scores dead.

Trump announced the change of plans on Twitter after several news reports pointed to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his choice for running mate. He had planned to hold his first event with his yet-to-be-named running mate Friday morning in New York.

The stunning announcement raised questions about the status of Trump’s selection process. Pence had emerged as a late favorite, though Trump said he had not finalized the pick and advisers cautioned he could change his mind.

“I haven’t made my final, final decision,” Trump said on Fox News.

In addition to Pence, Trump’s shortlist included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, according to people familiar with the candidate’s thinking.

After spending much of Thursday in Indianapolis, Pence flew to New York late in the day, according to a Republican familiar with the process. Indianapolis television station WTHR posted a video showing Pence arriving at a private airport in New Jersey early Thursday evening.

Trump did not say when he planned to announce his running mate. He’s up against a clock: The Republican convention kicks off in Cleveland Monday.

In tapping Pence, a staunch conservative with six terms in Congress, Trump would likely ease GOP leaders’ concerns about his own political inexperience and volatile temperament.

Michigan Republican leaders and activists were expressing optimism about their party’s chances of retaking the White House if Trump picks Pence, based on the Indiana’s governor’s experience running a Great Lakes state and maneuvering in Washington as a six-term congressman.

“It’s very beneficial for Michigan to have a Midwestern governor on the ticket with Donald Trump,” Ronna Romney McDaniel, chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, said Thursday. “He’s going to understand the issues that our state has faced.”

Pence’s record as a fiscal and social conservative in Congress and Indiana may bring comfort to Republicans wary of Trump’s commitment to their cause.

“I think he would help bring conservatives along who have been apprehensive about Trump, not knowing where he’s coming from,” said Saul Anuzis, a former Republican National Committee member who worked on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign. “I think he would help unite the party.”

The Pence reports were met positively by Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican usually critical of Trump,who said that if the Pence news is true as he assumes, it’s the best thing Trump has done. Flake hopes Pence can get Trump to change his positions and statements about Hispanics, he said.

As the day began, it appeared the decision would come quickly. Gingrich, the fiery Republican who helped define the political battles of the 1990s, told the Associated Press that Trump was supposed to let him know something in the afternoon. But by early evening, Gingrich told the AP he had heard nothing from Trump or others in the campaign.

Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Star reported Pence is dropping his re-election bid in order to join Trump’s ticket. CNN, CBS News and the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call also reported Trump had chosen Pence, citing unidentified people, while the Washington Post said Trump allies were signaling that was the move.

But Republicans with knowledge of the process said there had been no calls to Pence, or Christie either.

The top contenders have been vetted by a top Washington lawyer and all have spent time with Trump in recent days. But the final decision rests with the candidate, who is known for making decisions more on instinct than other factors — and for sometimes changing his mind.

Pence is running for re-election, but Indiana law prevents him from seeking two offices at once. He faces a Friday deadline to withdraw from the governor’s race.

The paperwork has been drawn up for him to take that step, according to a Republican, who insisted on anonymity. However, those documents have not been filed.

Christie, in New Jersey, said in an interview with MSNBC: “No matter what phone call (Trump) makes to me today, I will take a deep breath and prepare for tomorrow.”

Detroit News Staff Writer Chad Livengood contributed.