Gov. Pence returns to campaign trail praising Donald Trump as turmoil builds among GOP rank-and-file

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA -- As if the past 72 hours were nearly non-existent, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was back on the campaign trail Monday and back to praising his running-mate Donald Trump.

“I have to tell you, as I come before you today, it’s been an interesting few days,” Pence said.

The campaign events come two days after Pence said he was “offended” by Trump’s comments, made public Friday, which showed the Republican presidential nominee bragging about groping and trying to have sex with women in a 2005 open microphone conversation with Access Hollywood's Billy Bush.

“We’re called to forgive as we have been forgiven,” Pence said at a town hall event in Charlotte. “And last night my running mate, he showed the American people what’s in his heart. He showed humility to the American people. And then he fought back and turned the focus to the choice that we face, and I’m proud to stand with Donald Trump.”

The day for Pence started in Indianapolis with satellite interviews on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.

“That’s absolutely false to suggest that at any point in time we considered dropping off this ticket,” Pence told CNN.

The weekend, though, was spent at the governor’s residence in Indianapolis. Pence canceled an appearance in Wisconsin Saturday with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

“I couldn’t condone, I couldn’t defend those remarks,” Pence told CNN. “I encouraged Donald Trump on Friday to apologize for them – he did.”

Sources told our newsgathering partners at The Indianapolis Star Pence had kept his options open throughout the weekend.

“There’s a lot at stake here including his own personal reputation,” Laura Albright said, a political science professor at the University of Indianapolis.

A senior campaign aide told FOX 59 Sunday evening the governor wasn’t considering leaving the ticket, disputing the notion that it was ever being considered.

The widespread fallout continued on Capitol Hill.

House and Senate candidates scrambled to protect themselves in key races, including in Indiana.

During a conference call with House GOP members, Ryan told fellow Republicans he will no longer campaign with or defend Trump, which received blow-back among rank-and-file members, as Ryan explained he will spend his time focusing on maintaining control of the House.

“Nothing has changed about my support for Donald Trump and Mike Pence,” Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) said in a statement Monday when asked about the call.

Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), in the midst of a heated U.S. Senate race, said Saturday he was unsure whether he’ll vote for Trump, a tug-of-war between completely disavowing a Trump candidacy and possibly upsetting his base, and denouncing the video released Friday, a decision many Republicans face less than a month from Election Day.

“It’s a serious question,” Young said. “I’m not sure yet. I’m giving it very serious consideration.”

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