GOP primaries

Pence endorses Cruz but praises Trump

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Friday endorsed Ted Cruz for president, but also offered praise for Donald Trump.
The Cruz camp had seen the popular governor’s support as a ray of hope as the Texas senator aims to upset Trump in the Hoosier State. But far from denouncing Trump, Pence lauded the businessman’s contribution to the political process. 
{mosads}”I particularly want to commend Donald Trump, who I think has given voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans with a lack of progress in Washington D.C.,” the governor said on Greg Garrison’s radio program on WIBC. 
“And I’m also particularly grateful that Donald Trump has taken a strong stance for Hoosier jobs.”
Only then did he shift toward his endorsement of Cruz. 
“I’m not against anybody, but I will be voting for Ted Cruz in the upcoming Republican primary,” Pence said.
“I see Ted Cruz as a principled conservative who has dedicated his career to [advancing] the Reagan agenda,” he added.
Pence repeatedly praised both Cruz and Trump, as well as John Kasich, and told Indiana voters to make up their own minds. 
“I’ve always thought that to lead is to choose,” he said, adding that he’d support whoever wins the GOP nomination.
Cruz has pulled out all the stops in Indiana — he convinced John Kasich to stand down in the state, he announced Carly Fiorina as his presumptive running mate, and he’s hosted a jam-packed schedule of events. 
Trump leads the state with 39 percent support, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average, with Cruz at 34 percent and Kasich at 19 percent. 

The Pence endorsement is the latest move meant to woo the anti-Trump forces over to his corner. But that effort may have been muted by Pence’s tepid endorsement and praise of Trump.

Pence is a popular first-term governor and former congressman, seen as one of the more conservative governors in the country. His name had been floated as a possible presidential candidate in each of the last three cycles. 

Last year, Pence drew criticism for his support of a religious freedom bill that LGBT activists called discriminatory. Cruz came to his defense on that bill, arguing that it was essential to protect religious liberty. 
His praise for Trump giving “voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans” seemed to be a nod to his own difficult reelection bid. Pence is likely facing a tough fight with Democrat John Gregg, the former Indiana State House Speaker who narrowly lost to Pence in the 2012 election.
All three GOP candidates met with Pence in the run-up to his endorsement, but many observers believed Pence would stay neutral. 
Cruz is hoping for a repeat of Wisconsin, where he rode the endorsement of Gov. Scott Walker to victory in a primary earlier this month.
Trump still has paths to the nomination without a win in Indiana — largely through a resounding victory in California’s June 7 primary.
But Cruz has staked his candidacy on the Hoosier State, aware that a loss would make it difficult for anyone to stop Trump.
— Updated at 12:35 p.m.
Tags Donald Trump Indiana John Kasich Mike Pence Ted Cruz
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