Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is “in play” as a possible contender to be named Donald Trump’s running mate at next month’s GOP convention, sources familiar with the vice presidential search tell NBC News.
An individual knowledgeable of conversations about the decision tells NBC News that Pence was made aware several weeks ago through an intermediary that he was being considered for the VP slot.
Officials close to the governor stress that Pence has had absolutely no direct contact with the Trump campaign since before Indiana’s primary in April. Pence, who is running for his own re-election this November, endorsed Ted Cruz over Trump in the primary contest but noted at the time that the real estate mogul has “given voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans with the lack of progress in Washington, D.C.”
In a news conference on Thursday, Pence declined to say whether or not he is being vetted.
"You¹d have to talk to their campaign about who they¹re looking at or who they¹re not looking at," he said. "I¹ll cut to the chase. I haven¹t spoken to Donald Trump since before the Indiana primary and I certainly have never spoken to him about that topic."
One aide to the governor also told NBC News on Thursday: “Governor Pence hasn’t spoken to Mr. Trump since pre-Indiana primary, nor has he ever spoken to them about being VP — ever.”
But with three weeks until the convention, Pence remains under consideration, and members of both campaigns have been in regular contact.
“Indiana is going to be supportive of Mike Pence running for whatever he wants to run for,” said Jeff Cardwell, the state GOP chair who first met Pence in 1988. “He’s a proven leader in the Republican Party, and he’s one that brings people together at all levels.”
Trump is expected to visit Indiana on July 12 – the week before the Republican National Convention - for a fundraising event.
The selection of Pence would be a move to placate concerns among many Republicans that Trump is not committed to conservative positions. Several Republican officials and evangelical leaders have suggested their support of Trump largely hinges on his vice presidential selection.
In addition to his governing experience in Indiana, Pence served for 12 years in the House, filling Trump’s reported requirement of being able to navigate Capitol Hill.
Other possible picks for the job include Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. John Thune, Sen. Bob Corker and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, among others.
Rex Early, Trump’s Indiana campaign chair, lauded the suggestion of Pence, calling him “a good friend” who has “done a hell of a good job” as governor.
“You’re getting a card-carrying conservative that was a conservative when he was in Congress and now,” Early said. “If there really are people questioning Trump being a conservative, Pence will fill those holes.”
The Indiana governor considered running for president himself in 2012 and 2016, but after signing a controversial religious-freedom bill in April 2015, his own ambitions were derailed before they ever officially launched.
If Pence agreed to join Trump on the ticket, he would likely forego his own re-election effort to win a second term as governor. He is actively campaigning against former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg, who began running television ads in May touting himself as a “fiscal conservative” with appearances by former state Republican lawmakers.
Gregg lost to Pence by just three percentage points in the 2012 contest.