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Trump and family meet with final VP candidates

14 July 2016, 13:49

Indianapolis – Republican Donald Trump on Wednesday entered the final phase of his high-profile search for a running mate, arranging last-minute meetings with his finalists and family members as his staff prepares for a Friday announcement.

Trump posted on Twitter on Wednesday evening that he would reveal his choice at 11:00 on Friday in Manhattan. The presumptive GOP presidential nominee, his adult children and key staffers huddled with prospects earlier in the day.

He began Wednesday morning with breakfast at the residence of one, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, a day after the pair campaigned together in the state. They were joined by Trump's three adult children, along with his son-and-law and campaign chair Paul Manafort, who were seen leaving the residence.

Hours later, Newt Gingrich, another finalist, was seen with Trump's entourage at a downtown Indianapolis hotel. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, who has been advising Trump, was spotted arriving at the same hotel not long after Gingrich left.

Trump's family, including Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, also met privately with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Tuesday. The meeting was confirmed by a source with direct knowledge of it, but who was not authorised to discuss it publicly.

The meetings have been designed to let Trump's family get to know the candidates better before the presumptive nominee formalises his decision.

Final contenders

Trump had originally planned to fly back from Indiana with Pence following a rally on Tuesday night, but his plane was grounded by mechanical issues, so Trump's kids flew to join them in Indiana, another person familiar with his movements, but not authorised to discuss them, said.

"It was a late plan," Pence told reporters later on Wednesday. "I was hauling dishes from the cupboard at midnight. (Pence's wife) Karen laid out a nice spread."

Indiana is a state with particular significance for the presumptive GOP nominee: It's where he effectively locked up the GOP nomination with a commanding primary win that drove former rival Ted Cruz from the race.

Pence, Christie and Gingrich were said to be the final contenders for vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket less than a week before the GOP meets in Cleveland for the formal nomination. That's according to a person familiar with Trump's thinking, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorised to discuss the vetting process.

Trump said in a Tuesday interview with The Wall Street Journal that Sessions, Trump's top Senate advocate, is also still in the mix.

Pence is a steady, staunch conservative who would help calm nervous Republicans wary of Trump's impulsive style. Gingrich is a boisterous rabble-rouser who has spent decades in Washington, including as House speaker. Christie, a one-time rival, has become one of Trump's most trusted advisers.

Trump has spent weeks consulting with friends and family as he weighs the most important decision of his campaign to date. He's also brought his finalists on tour, having them open for him at speeches and rallies to test their receptions before his crowds.

Gingrich said on Wednesday night he believes it's down to two contenders: him and Pence.

'Narrowing it down'

"I suspect sometime tomorrow that Mike and I will both get phone calls and one of us will be packing our bags to go to New York, and the other one will be going to watch it on TV," Gingrich said on Fox News Channel's Hannity.

Trump appeared reluctant to commit on Wednesday. "I'm narrowing it down. I mean I'm at three, potentially four. But in my own mind, I probably am thinking about two," he told Fox's Bret Baier.

Introducing Trump at a rally in Westfield, Indiana, on Tuesday evening, Pence received an enthusiastic reception as he compared Trump to Republican icon Ronald Reagan and dug into Trump's likely Democrat rival, Hillary Clinton.

Trump told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday he is looking for a "fighter skilled in hand-to-hand combat" as his second-in-command, but hadn't seen enough of Pence to measure his fight.

While Trump kept his cards close, he spoke playfully of Pence at the rally: "I don't know whether he's going to be your governor or your vice president."

Pence told reporters on Wednesday he was "honoured by the attention" and the "opportunity to get to know this good man and his family".

"There's a number of other and noteworthy Americans that they're considering and I'm just honoured to be on that list," he said.

Gingrich framed the choice for Trump as a decision between a stabilising force who would help unify the party, and a fellow outsider who clicks personally with the billionaire businessman.

"One of the really hard questions he's got to weigh ... is do you really want a two-pirate ticket?" Gingrich said of himself and Trump.

- AP


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