Donald Trump and family meet Veep contenders

July 14, 2016 6:50 am

Indiana Governor Mike Pence joins Republican presidential candidate at a rally in Westfield, Indiana. Photo / AP

Donald Trump stoked intense speculation about his narrowing search
for a running mate today as he met privately with the apparent finalists
in Indianapolis.
It is the culmination of a months-long, frequently televised talent contest now approaching its season finale.
One
by one, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee met Indiana
Governor Mike Pence, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Senator
Jeff Sessions, summoning them for last-minute gatherings after weeks of
teasing his uncertainty on social media and on the campaign trail.
The
day also carried the lure of intrigue: Trump initially was expected to
depart Indiana on Wednesday, hours after Pence had a well-received
audition for the running-mate role at a raucous Trump rally in
Westfield.
Instead, after his plane experienced unidentified
mechanical issues, he dined with Pence in downtown Indianapolis and
visited the Governor’s residence. He was joined by his eldest daughter,
Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner; his sons Donald and Eric;
and campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

“I don’t know if he’s going to be your governor or your
vice-president, who the hell knows?” Trump had said Tat the campaign
rally, as thousands of supporters cheered.
Trump said that he plans to announce his choice by Saturday, but aides said of his selection could emerge earlier.
The
candidate and his family decided over the weekend to meet with each of
the leading contenders as Trump continued to deliberate, according to a
Trump ally. On Tuesday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie campaigned
with the candidate in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and spent time with the
campaign team all day, and sat with Trump as they flew between cities.
Christie spent Thursday in Washington at the Williard InterContinental
hotel holding meetings for Trump’s presidential transition project and
was in touch with senior campaign aides.
Picking a running mate
is one of the most consequential decisions a presidential candidate can
make before Election Day. It offers a chance to breathe new energy into a
campaign but also can weigh down a candidate with unforeseen baggage.
Many GOP strategists say Trump – who has struggled to stay on message in
recent months amid missteps and controversies – needs a running mate
who can defend him from a deluge of attacks and negative media
attention.
The campaign of presumptive Democratic presidential
nominee Hillary Clinton has attacked Trump in recent weeks, mocking his
grasp of American government and questioning his character and
integrity.
“In times like these, we need a president who can help
pull together, not split apart. And that is why I believe Donald
Trump is so dangerous,” Clinton said today during a speech at the
historic Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.
“His
campaign is as divisive as any we have seen in our lifetimes. It is
built on stoking mistrust and pitting American against American. It’s
there in everything he says and everything he promises to do as
president.”
With Trump preparing to formally accept the GOP
nomination next week at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland,
the campaign is eager to reset months of discord with a display of
unity, particularly with members of the Republican establishment who are
still sceptical of Trump’s candidacy.
Trump and his aides have
said the presumptive nominee has looked for candidates who have
political experience and an ability to work with legislators in
Washington.
A Trump ally described the conversations with the
various contenders as opportunities for Trump to sit with his leading
candidates and have his family meet them. Manafort in recent days has
been a proponent of picking a seasoned elected official, said people
familiar with the discussions.
At the top of that list is Pence,
who has built a rapport with Trump and his family in recent weeks. His
political experience and his reputation as a staunch social conservative
make him an appealing choice for Trump, who has struggled to win over
segments of the hard right and the Republican establishment.

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