On July 16, 2016 at 11:00 am ET Donald Trump announced his choice of running mate, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana. The press conference in its entirety can be viewed in the video here.
Before introducing Mike Pence, Donald Trump indicated that despite their previous support of Ted Cruz, evangelical leaders now support him. It seems possible that his choice of Mike Pence might be in part motivated by that consideration. In this connection, Trump mentioned his intent to do away with a bias against evangelicals instituted by Lyndon B. Johnson.
We’ll call it the Johnson amendment. Where he took away from the evangelicals. We’re going to let Christians and Jews and people of religion talk… without being afraid to talk… The absolute top leaders… evangelical leaders… Christians leaders… Jewish leaders… believe it or not some Muslim leaders…I had the top leaders up to my office and I said: “Why is it that you are so powerful as an individual, and yet when you get out there, you’re sort of timid ?” And they didn’t know how to answer the question. And it took two or three meetings before I could get it out. One great gentleman who everybody knows, but whose name I will not reveal, said “Mr. Trump, we live in fear in our churches and our synagogues. We live in fear that we’re going to lose our tax exempt status, if we say anything that is slightly political. And I looked out the window… I was in Trump Tower, and I pointed to people walking down the street. I said “Well, they have the right to speak, but you don’t. That means they’re more powerful than you are. We have to do something about it. How did it start?” … And they said: “It started because of Lyndon Johnson. And yes, he had a problem in Texas with a certain religious leader. And he did this, and he got it done.” And we’re going to undo it! So that religious leaders in this country … and not because they backed me in such large numbers … but so that religion can again have a voice.
While citing Mike Pence’s record as Governor of Indiana as exemplary in a number of ways, including a balanced budget and a sound economy, Trump also spoke of Indiana being first in the nation for infrastructure, despite budget cuts.
When Pence was finally given his turn to talk, he introduced himself like this: “People who know me know that I am a pretty basic guy. I am a Christian, a Republican and a Conservative, in that order.” This, together with the Biblical quote that prefaced Pence’s statement, would tend to confirm that it is Pence’s stance on evangelicals, more than his conservative economic positions, that clinched the choice for Donald Trump, who until recently had not been doing well with religious conservatives.
One unexpected statement by Pence was that Trump plans to entirely repeal Obamacare rather than follow Hillary Clinton’s plan to turn the ACA into a one payer “socialist” system. This appears surprising in view of Trump’s previous positions on healthcare insurance.
Meanwhile, the Libertarian Party Chair, Nicholas Sarwark, announced today that according to CNN “Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Mitt Romney are considering voting for Gov. Gary Johnson, Libertarian candidate for President.”
Perhaps the evangelical vote is not all sewn up quite yet.