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Greg Bluestein

Reports: It’s down to Mike Pence and Newt Gingrich for Veep

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Mike Pence and Donald Trump. AP photo.

Mike Pence and Donald Trump. AP photo.

Former Georgia lawmaker Newt Gingrich had his audition for Donald Trump’s running mate last week. On Tuesday, in front of a cheering home crowd, it was Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s turn.

The first-term governor slammed Hillary Clinton as a disaster in the making and cast Trump as the nation’s savior. “We will not rest, we will not relent, until we make this good man our president,” he told thousands at a rally in the Indianapolis suburb of Westfield, introducing the candidate.

Judging by Trump’s campaign insiders, the battle for his No. 2 gig is between Pence, the radio host-turned politician known as an unwavering conservative willing to buck his party’s leaders, and Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker who led his own anti-establishment insurgency two decades ago.

The Washington Times reported Trump was almost certain to pick Pence as his running mate, while CNN quoted an adviser saying it was down to Gingrich and the Indianan. Time Magazine has New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie still in the running, though his hometown paper says that’s unlikely.

In Pence, Trump could find a partner with political experience and a placid alter ego to balance the real estate mogul’s brash persona. But he also carries significant baggage after a stormy first term – and a tight re-election campaign in November against a popular Democrat.

Pence sparked a national uproar when he supported a version of “religious liberty” legislation, which mirrored the debate over a similar measure in Georgia that was vetoed a year later. Indiana corporate forces and gay rights advocates threatened boycotts after Pence signed the measure into law, and lawmakers were forced to make changes to soften the language to avert an economic backlash.

The New York Times offers this insight:

Mr. Pence has emerged in recent days as a strong if not overwhelming consensus choice among Mr. Trump’s advisers, as well as Republicans in Washington working with the Trump campaign, according to people familiar with the campaign’s deliberations. There is broad agreement among Republicans close to Mr. Trump that Mr. Pence is the lowest-risk option still under consideration — a conventional selection whose greatest weakness might be the blandness of his political profile.

And Mr. Pence has reciprocated the Trump campaign’s interest, advising his political allies that he would be very likely to accept an invitation to join the 2016 ticket.

With Trump advisers having all but concluded that there is nothing disqualifying in Mr. Pence’s record, the most important remaining hurdle for Mr. Pence may have been the event here.

Gingrich, meanwhile, has intensified his jockeying for the job, portraying himself as a fellow revolutionary willing to upend the Washington status quo. Fox News on Tuesday halted Gingrich’s TV contract, fueling speculation that he could be Trump’s Veep pick. Pence, too, has made preparations, signaling to state and national Republicans to be ready with another gubernatorial candidate should he get Trump’s offer.

The billionaire was quiet on the speculation, as his advisers spread word that the choice could be announced in the next three days. (It must be unveiled by Friday for Pence’s sake, as that’s the deadline to land on Indiana’s ballot if he remains in the governor’s race.)

“How’s your governor doing? Good? I think so,” Trump said after Pence introduced him. “I think so.”