Indiana governor Mike Pence on Friday offered up the most tepid endorsement of the campaign cycle. In an interview with WIBC radio, he announced that he’d be voting for Ted Cruz in Indiana’s primary on Tuesday, which is a make-or-break contest for the Texas senator.
He had a roundabout way of announcing his support. “I particularly want to commend Donald Trump,” he said, for calling attention to the job losses Hoosiers have suffered. “I’m not against anybody, but I will be voting for Ted Cruz in the upcoming Republican primary.” He concluded: “I urge everyone to make up their own mind.” It sounded more like a concession than an endorsement.
For a couple of weeks now, Pence has been under intense pressure to take this step — from his old friend and fellow former Indiana congressman David McIntosh, now president of the Club for Growth; from Republican donors like Paul Singer and the Ricketts family; from National Review as a whole and Jonah Goldberg in particular; and from Scott Walker, who gave Cruz is full-throated support, campaigning with him and cutting ads ahead of the Wisconsin primary last month.
For Pence, it was always a choice between backing Cruz or staying on the sidelines. He faces a tough reelection contest in November, and since he signed the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act into law a year ago amidst public furor and badly mishandled the response, his approval rating has suffered, particularly with women and business leaders.
Torn between his conservative friends and his political future, and with a critical primary just days away, Pence offered up a half-hearted endorsement that would pacify the former — if irritate them nonetheless — while not endanger the latter, at least not too much.