VP pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, set for Wed. night RNC speech

Pence fires up crowd, promises ‘huge' change under Donald Trump

Cruz is booed after failing to endorse Trump.

Seeking to introduce himself as a conservative who would balance the ticket and heal the wounds of the Republican Party, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Wednesday accepted the nomination as Donald Trump’s vice-presidential running mate and gave an at times fiery speech to a convention crowd eager to walk away enthused about the Republican ticket.

“I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican — in that order,” Pence said. “I’m new to this campaign and honestly, I didn’t think I’d be standing here.”

“For those of you who don’t know me, which is most of you, I grew up on the front row of the American dream,” said Pence before waxing about the cornfield in his eastern Indiana hometown and his conversion from liberalism to Reaganism.

As with a number of vice presidential candidates in years past, the introduction was a necessary step.

State Rep. Tim Derickson, of Hanover Twp., argued Pence is a known quantity who is “very conservative” on social issues. But others argued that very trait could work against Pence, who embroiled himself in controversy last year over a religious rights bill.

“Mr. Pence has been a pretty well-liked governor on the whole, (but) the last year has been pretty difficult for him,” said Cedarville University political science professor Mark Caleb Smith, who said joining the ticket was a “good way to avoid a pretty nasty re-election fight in Indiana.”

The day kicked off on a sour note for Pence with the New York Times reporting that the Trump camp approached Ohio Gov. John Kasich in May about possibly being Trump’s running mate.

The story may prove to be a temporary blip — Trump quickly denied that he ever offered the VP slot to Kasich — but Pence may remain in Trump’s shadow. In the afternoon, Pence stood by and waited for Trump’s helicopter to arrive in grandiose style typically reserved for actual presidents.

After a polite introduction, Pence handed the microphone to Trump, who barely mentioned his running mate. Instead, Trump book-ended comments to Indiana’s first lady between lavish congratulations and praise of his own children.

“Karen,” Trump said to the governor’s wife, “your whole family is an incredible family and we love having you with us in this endeavor. And hopefully we’re going to do an amazing job and an amazing job for the country most importantly … and kids congratulations, fantastic job.”

Even during Pence’s night at the convention, the build-up to the Indiana governor was overshadowed by the drama of a non-endorsement by Ted Cruz, who was booed by many in the crowd during his speech and particularly at the end, when it was apparent there would be a congratulatory nod to Trump but no endorsement.

Trump even appeared in the hall before Cruz was finished, which roused the crowd even more.

During his speech Pence made a reference to his own more subdued style when compared to Trump and joked that the New York billionaire chose him to balance the ticket. But after introducing himself and his family, Pence did his best to show why he thinks Trump will solve the nation’s ills.

“Donald Trump gets it,” he said, adding, “He doesn’t tiptoe around the thousands of rules on political correctness.”

He took potshots at the press, at Democrats and particularly at the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, who he referred to as the “secretary of the status quo.”

Then drawing on an often parodied line from Trump, Pence said, “The change will be huge” when Trump is elected president.

Pence has served in Congress and as Indiana’s governor the last four years but is relatively unknown nationally. His low-key style was likely attractive to Trump, said the political scientist, Smith.

“Mr. Pence gives him experience but isn’t threatening,” Smith said, “but it doesn’t give him a sizzle that he might have gotten out of someone like Mr. (Newt) Gingrich.”

Although Pence’s speech appeared to be well received, research on vice presidential selections generally indicates the decision has little bearing on a voter’s decision, said Christopher Devine, a University of Dayton professor who specializes in vice presidencies.

“Think about it,” Devine said. “Who are you voting for in this election — is it going to be Mike Pence or is it about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?”

WHIO-TV’s James Brown and Andy Howell and Staff Writers Chris Stewart and Laura A. Bischoff contributed to this report.

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