IN Focus: Cruz gets Pence endorsement, names new running mate

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Gov. Mike Pence said he'll vote for Ted Cruz in the Republican primary, giving the Texas senator a boost ahead of Tuesday's vote in Indiana.

Pence made the announcement Friday afternoon on the WIBC's "Greg Garrison Show."

Pence met with Cruz at the Governor’s Residence when the Texas senator visited Indiana last week. Pence also met with candidates Donald Trump and John Kasich. Trump has emerged as the front-runner while Kasich has decided to concentrate his efforts on other states ahead of next week’s primary.

Pence told Garrison that he respected all three candidates and expressed admiration for Trump and the following he's amassed. But when it comes to his personal vote, Pence said Cruz had it. He called Cruz a "principled conservative" who cherishes the same Reagan Republican values he does.

"I will be voting for Ted Cruz in the upcoming Republican primary," Pence said. "I think the man has shown the courage of his convictions. It's not a popular thing in Washington, D.C."

Pence said regardless of whoever emerges as the ultimate pick, he'll work his "heart out" to get them elected. He urged Hoosiers to study each candidate and their policies before making their final decision.

"Gov. Pence is a trusted conservative," Cruz said after the endorsement. "He is a man of faith, a man who takes these decisions very, very seriously and to have his support is the latest manifestation of Republicans coming together and uniting behind this campaign, standing as one behind this campaign. And the Hoosier state is going to have a critically important decision to make on Tuesday."

But later Friday some local political pundits questioned whether Pence's announcement was really an endorsement.

"Governor Pence is really a wordsmith, and the fact that endorsement was not in the statement, to me, means he was stating a personal preference as opposed to a full endorsement," said Mike Murphy, a GOP strategist, "It will reinforce the opinions of people who were inclined to vote for Cruz already, and it will not sway the opinions of people who are inclined to vote against Cruz.

Pence in his announcement also gave praise to Donald Trump.

"I particularly want to commend Donald Trump, who I think has given voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans," Pence said.

IndyStar political columnist Matthew Tully said Pence did what he'd done before, staying as middle-of-the-road as possible, trying to keep the support of all Indiana Republicans ahead of his fight to keep his job in a heated governor's race in November against Democratic challenger John Gregg.

"Absolutely underwhelming...this was the ultimate cover-your-bases endorsement," Tully said, "He's in a dogfight of an election of his own."

In addition to Pence's endorsement, five other governors have thrown their support behind Cruz: Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin), Gov. Gary Herbert (R-Utah), Gov. Nikki R. Haley (R-S.C.), Gov. Phil Bryant (R-Miss.) and Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas).

Pence's endorsement comes the same week Cruz named former Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina as his running mate- an unusual move at this point in the race.

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