South Carolina Republicans seemed satisfied with the presumptive nominee’s vice presidential pick Friday.
Donald Trump posted on Twitter Friday that he had chosen Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his vice-presidential candidate. Pence appears to have been the businessman’s choice among three finalists of former House Speaker New Gingrich and current New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Pence is in his final year as governor, following more than a decade in Congress.
South Carolina’s Republican elected officials have responded positively to Pence, who they saw as the safest pick of the three — a candidate who appeals to conservatives but is not likely to bring any additional controversy for the party’s soon-to-be nominee.
“I served with Governor Mike Pence during his tenure in Congress where we often worked together on the Republican Study Committee to advance conservative legislation,” Second District US Rep. Joe Wilson, likely Pence’s closest ally in South Carolina, said in a statement. “I was grateful to visit our troops together in Iraq in 2008, where I saw firsthand his heartfelt appreciation for our service members and military families. I believe he would be an honorable and dedicated Vice-President of the United States.”
Pence portrays himself as a fiscal, social conservative and his positions in the past have sometimes put him at odds with the more moderate Trump. He has previously criticized Trump’s positions on blocking Muslim immigration and, unlike Trump, publicly supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. He was thrust into the national spotlight after signing Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act last year. The legislation allowed businesses and employees to assert their religious rights, but opponents viewed it as an attempt to allow discrimination against LGBT customers.
“Mike Pence is a friend,” Gov. Nikki Haley said in a statement. “But more than that, he is a strong conservative reformer who has delivered results for the people of Indiana. Washington is broken, but we don’t have to look any further than leaders like Mike Pence for the solutions to fix it.”
South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison mocked the pick in his own statement. “Like Trump, Pence shows a reckless disregard for working Americans—he has been a strong supporter of risking seniors’ Social Security in Wall Street stocks. Like Trump, Pence shows a reckless disregard for those who are different than him—last year he signed a law allowing discrimination against LGBTQ Hoosiers. And like Trump, Pence will not get anywhere near the White House—Americans will soundly reject them both at the ballot box this fall.”
Harrison also noted that Pence, unlike Gov. Haley, had signed legislation to expand Medicaid eligibility coverage in his home state. Pence’s decision hurt his standing among some conservatives.
Pence is also viewed favorably by the party’s faithful who don’t see Trump as favorably. “He’s well-known in the Midwest,” said Randy Page, a South Carolina delegate on the Republican National Committee’s Credentials Committee who is in Cleveland prepping for next week’s convention. “When it was mentioned in the committee meeting that Pence had been named by Trump, party delegates were very happy and a cheer went up.”