WESTFIELD, Indiana (AP) — Republican Donald Trump campaigned alongside Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Tuesday evening, the latest in a series of public auditions as the billionaire businessman mulls his vice presidential pick.
Walking onto the stage to cheers, Pence confidently introduced the presumptive GOP nominee and vigorously advocated for Trump as the best person to lead the country. The speech made clear that despite his mild-mannered reputation, the governor and former Congressman could serve the role of attack dog if Trump taps him as his running mate.
“Donald Trump hears the voice of the American people,” Pence said, saying that the billionaire “understands” the country in a way no one has since Republican icon Ronald Reagan. His voice raised, Pence drew thunderous applause when he warned of dire consequences if Democrat Hillary Clinton is elected.
Pence would be a welcome pick among anxious Republican officials who are looking for a steady, disciplined counterpart to Trump’s freewheeling style. GOP officials are already starting to gather in Cleveland ahead of next week’s national convention.
Taking the stage after Pence’s introduction, Trump surveyed the large crowd packed into a new arena in suburban Indianapolis. “Wow,” he declared before calling Indiana, which delivered him the nomination after he won the primary here in May, “a special place.”
Trump opened by reading prepared remarks about shootings that have dominated headlines in recent days. He said his comments come “right from the heart.” He was speaking hours after a memorial service for police officers slain in Texas.
“Our whole nation grieves and mourns for the loss of five heroes in Dallas,” he said. He again referred to himself as “the law and order candidate.” And he said “hostility against the police must end.” He also touched on the deaths of men in Louisiana and Minnesota at the hands of officers. Video footage of those incidents has riveted the nation.
“It was tough to watch,” he said. “We have to figure it out.”
He questioned whether inadequate officer training or “something else” was responsible.
Late in the rally, he again spoke about Pence, playfully saying, “I don’t know if he’s going to be your governor” or join the Trump ticket. Trump is expected to his running mate this week. He and Pence also appeared together at a fundraiser earlier Tuesday.
Many in the crowd said they were hopeful Pence would be chosen by Trump.
Christina Lewellen, of Indianapolis, said Pence would have a calming effect because he “doesn’t get caught up in the drama like Donald does.”
“I think he’ll be a restraining device,” Lewellen said. “He’s almost like a white Ben Carson … which is excellent. He’s calm, cool and collected.”
A Democrat who’d come for the spectacle also said Hoosiers would be delighted to see Pence move on.
Dan Gettelfinger, of Indianapolis, summed up his feelings in two words: “Good riddance.”
Associated Press writers Brian Slodysko in Westfield and Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.