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Trump chooses Mike Pence as his running mate, a pick that could soothe nervous Republicans

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Donald Trump announced Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate.

Donald Trump’s selection Friday of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate was the latest in a long series of efforts to stabilize his high-drama campaign, but the fumbled announcement showed the unpredictable New York business mogul is not adapting easily to the canons of running for high office.

Pence had already flown from Indianapolis to New York in preparation for joining the Republican ticket when Trump, by phone from his Beverly Hills mansion, told Fox News on Thursday night that he hadn’t yet made up his mind on a running mate.

Trump’s campaign denied reports by CNN and NBC that the soon-to-be GOP presidential nominee was so unsure about Pence that he was asking aides around midnight Thursday whether he could switch to someone else.

The lurching rollout, further disrupted by a major terrorist attack in Nice, France, was in keeping with the iconoclastic campaign of a brash celebrity who has upended the Republican Party with his raw brand of racial politics and breaches of GOP orthodoxy.

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But it marred a major campaign event that was supposed to make Trump more broadly acceptable, particularly to the fractured group of Republicans gathering in Cleveland for the party convention that starts Monday.

“If it continues to be as chaotic as it has been over the last 24 hours, it will be a lingering problem,” said Michael Steel, a Republican consultant who worked for Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign.

A longtime champion of conservative and evangelical causes, Pence, 57, was a favorite of GOP leaders who have resisted embracing Trump.

Trump had planned to introduce his choice publicly Friday in New York, but postponed the event after the attack in France. In the end, Trump revealed his choice Friday morning on Twitter. He and Pence plan to appear together Saturday morning in Manhattan.

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Pence, who backed Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in the presidential primaries, is well-placed to firm up Trump’s support among conservatives, particularly evangelical Christians who preferred Cruz.

But Pence differs with Trump on key issues. In December, he called Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. “offensive and unconstitutional,” a stand that will draw extra attention in the aftermath of the attack in France.

Pence is also a longtime champion of the free-trade agreements that Trump denounces as a threat to American jobs.

The mild-mannered governor is a relatively low-risk choice for Trump, whose free-wheeling bombast often backfires.

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One of the other contenders for the GOP ticket was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who stirred up fresh controversy Thursday night by saying all Muslims in the U.S. should be tested and then deported if they believe in sharia law.

And another pugnacious finalist, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, drew a fresh burst of negative publicity Thursday when one of his closest associates, David Samson, pleaded guilty to bribery.

Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival, lost no time criticizing Pence. Her campaign chairman, John Podesta, highlighted Pence’s tea party leanings and accused him of backing “failed economic policies that favor millionaires and corporations over working families.”

Clinton’s campaign also signaled that it would use Pence’s stands on gay rights to amplify its charge that Trump is a bigot. Clinton allies cited Pence’s signing of a law that allowed Indiana businesses to ignore anti-discrimination rules that conflict with their religious beliefs, a measure widely denounced as anti-gay after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.

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“Pence has never left any question about his animus toward LGBTQ people,” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, told reporters on a call organized by the Clinton campaign.

Democrats also pounced on Pence’s abortion record. In March, he signed a bill barring women from seeking abortions solely because a fetus could be born with disabilities, a law now facing court challenge.

But anti-abortion groups, wary of Trump’s shift from “pro-choice” in the 1990s to “pro-life” in the presidential campaign, applauded Pence’s record.

“Mike Pence is a pro-life trailblazer and Mr. Trump could not have made a better choice,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List group.

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Pence’s selection was also welcomed by Republican establishment leaders who have winced at Trump’s emergence as the party standard-bearer.

“Mike Pence comes from the heart of the conservative movement — and the heart of America,” said House Speaker Paul D, Ryan of Wisconsin. “I can think of no better choice for our vice presidential candidate. We need someone who is steady and secure in his principles, someone who can cut through the noise and make a compelling case for conservatism.”

On Twitter, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a former Trump rival for the GOP nomination, called Pence “rock solid.” And Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a leading Trump critic among Republicans in Congress, described Pence as “a good man.”

“He adds a great deal to the ticket,” Flake said.

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An Indiana native, Pence is a former talk radio host who served six terms in the House before winning the governorship in 2012.

For congressional candidates who fear that Trump’s hard-edged style could drive voters from the GOP, the selection of Pence “probably does a lot to help reassure you that they’re taking this seriously,” said Josh Holmes, a Republican strategist who ran the 2014 reelection campaign of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky).

“I think they had enough reality TV on the ticket,” he said, “and they needed somebody who had done the job of governing.”

Finnegan reported from Los Angeles and Memoli from Washington, D.C.

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michael.finnegan@latimes.com

Twitter: @finneganLAT

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UPDATES:

2:15 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional reaction.

10:25 a.m.: This story was updated with comment from House Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

9 a.m.: This story was updated with comment from Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

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11:37 a.m.: This story was updated with background on Pence.

This article was originally published at 11 a.m.


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