At this hour, Indiana Sec/State office tells me Pence has not withdrawn his name from the GOV ballot. He has 2 hrs 13 mins left.— Sean Sullivan (@WaPoSean) July 15, 2016
But approximately 72 minutes before the all-important noon deadline, Trump made it official.
I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate. News conference tomorrow at 11:00 A.M.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 15, 2016
Now Indiana Republicans are scrambling to find a new candidate four months before Election Day. And their competition has a head start. Democratic nominee John Gregg has $5.8 million in the bank and almost beat Pence four years ago. Gregg has been on TV introducing himself to voters for the past 10 weeks, while Republicans don't even know who their candidate is.
Indiana GOP leaders will decide who will take Pence's spot. And their best shot to hold onto this seat is getting a big name that can quickly raise cash and doesn't need as much time to introduce himself or herself to voters.
Unfortunately for them, their biggest name --former popular Gov. Mitch Daniels -- made clear Thursday he's not interested. Other names have been floated aren't nearly as well known, but they're not nobodies either. They include:
Lt. Gov. Erick Holcomb (who 62 percent of Indiana voters said they've never heard of in an April poll by GOP firm Bellwether)
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma (47 percent have never heard of him), Rep. Todd Rokita (51 percent have never heard of him), and Rep. Susan Brooks (58 percent have never heard of her).
Rep. Susan Brooks will withdraw from cong race to seek gov seat, says Murray Clark: "I've had a lot of conv w/ her and she's committed."— Maureen Groppe (@mgroppe) July 14, 2016
Even if Republicans find their dream candidate, Pence's departure will change the fundamental dynamics of the race in a way that favors Democrats. Open seats are infinitely easier for challengers to win than trying to unseat the incumbent. In the past 56 gubernatorial elections, only 3 incumbents have been defeated.
Democrats definitely don't have this race in the bag, though. Indiana is a state that's been trending red since President Obama took office: It's voted Republican in four of the five past presidential elections.
And you could also make the case Pence's departure would be a blessing in disguise for Republicans.
Pence still hasn't recovered from last year's bruising religious freedom debate. Pence was leading Gregg by six percent in an April Bellwether poll, a not-impressive number in a socially conservative state. (Democrats argue the religious freedom fight weakened his coalition of social conservatives and the more moderate business community.)
We ranked Indiana as one of our top five governors' races likely to flip parties in November, thanks in part to Pence's weakened approval rating in the state, which dropped from the 60s to the 40s immediately after the religious freedom debate.
So, on the plus side for Republicans, they have a chance to start over in a competitive race without a candidate. But they'll be starting from zero, and it's unclear whether they'll find a candidate than can help them make up precious lost time in one of the most competitive governors' races in the nation. The 24 hours of confusion about whether Pence would be in the race or not didn't help them, either.