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Greg Bluestein

Some Georgia social conservatives hope Mike Pence pick is a ‘decoy’

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence holds a news conference at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Thursday. Pence has signed into law a religious objections bill that some convention organizers and business leaders have opposed amid concern it could allow discrimination against gay people. AP/Michael Conroy

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence holds a news conference. AP/Michael Conroy

As Donald Trump postponed his announcement of a running mate, some Georgia conservatives were hoping it was a sign he changed his mind about Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

Multiple media outlets reported Thursday that Trump appeared to select Pence over former Georgia lawmaker Newt Gingrich and other contenders, and Gingrich’s allies signaled Pence was the likely pick. Yet Trump’s decision to delay his Friday press conference unveiling his VP pick, citing the France terror attack that killed dozens, raised speculation that the businessman had changed his mind.

Pence’s supporters see him as a force that could galvanize evangelical Christians who have been reluctant to embrace the free-wheeling New York real estate mogul. But some social conservatives view his decision to backtrack from Indiana’s “religious liberty” legislation as a betrayal. He signed a weaker version of the measure into law after corporate giants and gay rights groups threatened boycotts and other economic backlash.

State Sen. Josh McKoon, the architect of Georgia’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act measure and a delegate to next week’s convention, said Pence’s nomination “went over like a lead balloon” in his circles.

Added McKoon:

Pence has two problems. 1. He blew all his “social conservative” cred when he caved in the wake of signing the Indiana RFRA. His selection therefore will not reassure social conservatives that a Trump administration will support conservative priorities. 2. He expanded Medicaid. The one issue that has united the whole GOP is opposition to Obamacare. In 2012 we nominated the Godfather of Romneycare. Are we really about to put someone on the ticket that neuters our ability to critique Obamacare?

The angst over Pence extended to other Georgia conservatives. State Rep. Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville, wrote that he hoped Pence is a “decoy” and another candidate is picked.

“Pence had an opportunity to be a conservative stalwart in Indiana and blew it with the expansion of Medicaid and choosing not to uphold free exercise on Religious Freedom,” he lamented.

Even as several media outlets reported that Pence had accepted the nomination, some Trump campaign operatives seemed delighted by the continuing suspense over the former reality TV star’s pick – and the fact that it was depriving Democrat Hillary Clinton of media coverage.

From his Georgia state director Brandon Phillips: