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Donald Trump and Mike Pence are playing unlikely roles in their pairing as presidential running mates

Donald Trump, Mike Pence
Donald Trump applauds after introducing Indiana Gov. Mike Pence at their first joint appearance as the Republican presidential ticket.
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Debuting the Republican presidential ticket Saturday, Donald Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence each played his part in what promises to be a role reversal for the fall campaign: the presumed nominee as attack dog, the running mate as the cool-headed stabilizer.

As partnerships go, theirs is not exactly a bromance. In their first joint appearance, the two displayed none of the warmth often shown in vice presidential rollouts. Trump stole the stage in a rambling speech before introducing Pence almost as an afterthought. They did not link arms afterward. Instead, they awkwardly shook hands and skipped altogether the classic pose of arms stretched into the air, hands clasped in victory.

It was another sign of Trump’s rule-breaking route to the GOP nomination, days before the start of the party’s convention in Cleveland. As Trump struggles to unify a fractured Republican Party, Pence brings a potentially comforting complement to the businessman’s often politically incorrect populist appeal.

“One of the big reasons that I chose Mike, and one of the reasons is party unity, I have to be honest,” Trump said in his typically off-the-cuff speaking style at the event in Midtown Manhattan. “Because I’m an outsider. I want to be an outsider.”

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Trump insisted the governor was his first choice, despite an erratic decision-making process and reports that he reconsidered late. He praised Pence’s track record leading the Hoosier State as the nation struggled in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

“This is the primary reason I wanted Mike — other than he looks very good,” Trump said.

The silver-haired 57-year-old does, indeed, look almost stereotypically presidential, and when he finally did take the stage Saturday after Trump spoke alone for about half an hour, he addressed the audience in a way voters might more familiarly expect of their politicians.

Pence appeared steady and confident, but humble, sharing his Irish American immigrant family’s story and telling of his own background as “a small-town boy … with a front-row seat to the American dream.”

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“Donald Trump is a good man,” Pence said. “Join us. … Let’s come together as a party and a people and a movement to make America great again.”

The two will not immediately hit the road together. Trump’s body language suggested that he was done with his running mate as soon as he introduced him. Pence touched down later Saturday for a homecoming in Indiana, the state where Trump clinched the nomination after the grueling primary.

“I’m going to take Hoosier ideals to Washington, D.C.,” he said in a short speech, his family by his side.

But Pence’s familiarity with the Republican establishment after more than a decade in Congress, and his popularity among the fiscal and social conservative wings of the party  he was an early backer of the tea party  provides a bookend to the Trump nomination the GOP desperately needed.

Trump made it clear he wanted a running mate with legislative experience, particularly one who knows Washington, and Pence brought a hearty nod of approval from House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and others who have kept a critical distance from Trump’s unorthodox positions.

Pence has disagreed with Trump on key issues, most notably trade. And he criticized Trump’s race-based attack on an Indiana-born federal judge who Trump said could not perform his job because of his Mexican American heritage.

Even rival vice presidential contender Newt Gingrich, the veteran of Capitol Hill who led the 1994 Republican revolution, praised Pence’s ability to bring together a party fractured by Trump’s unexpected rise.

“He can help reach out and reassure members of Congress and Republican governors who may be skeptical of Trump’s untraditional candidacy,” Gingrich said.

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But beyond solidifying the frayed Republican Party, it is not clear that Pence will be able to attract swing voters still unsure about Trump and potentially looking at Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Female voters in particular, and those in the suburbs who are a most sought-after part of the electorate this cycle, may have concerns about Pence’s strict antiabortion views and Indiana’s “religious liberty” measure that was seen as discriminatory toward gay people.

Trump “has the perfect partner: Mike Pence, who’s been on a years-long crusade against women’s healthcare and access to abortion in this country,” said Dawn Laguens, head of Planned Parenthood Votes. “This is the nightmare the Trump-Pence ticket is offering: to unite their party against women.”

The haphazard rollout, punctuated by a new logo that was roundly mocked for Trump’s dominance over Pence  and quickly replaced  offered an easy mark for Democrats.

In a video released Saturday, Clinton’s allies pounced on Trump as “indecisive,” an attempt to knock back one of Trump’s perceived strengths among voters who view him as a successful business executive.

“Always divisive. Not so decisive,” the video says.

Saturday’s campaign event capped a typically wild and unpredictable selection process.

Trump at first scheduled his announcement for Friday morning but delayed it in what he said was a show of respect for the victims of the terrorist attack in Nice, France.

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Behind the scenes, Trump was reportedly unhappy that Pence’s name had leaked and said that he was reconsidering the choice as late as Thursday night.

But then he announced the choice of Pence on Friday morning anyway, on Twitter. 

Two other apparent finalists, Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, had pushed aggressively for the vice presidential slot and seemed closer to Trump’s own let-it-rip instincts in campaigning.

Trump’s introduction of Pence left no doubt that he is the chief executive of this campaign.

At one point in his rambling introduction, Trump stopped himself.

“Back to Mike Pence,” he said. And then he continued talking several minutes more before calling his running mate to the stage.

Tanfani reported from New York and Mascaro from Cleveland.

Twitter: @JTanfani@LisaMascaro

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UPDATES:

3:25 p.m.: This article was updated with comment from Pence in Indiana.

12:50 p.m.: This article was updated with new details and comments throughout.

10:30 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from Trump supporters.

This article was originally published at 10:15 a.m.


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