Trump made no announcement, but seemed to relish teasing his Indiana audience with the prospect.
“I don’t know if he’s going to be your governor or your vice president. Who the hell knows! Good man,” Trump said at the end of a nearly hour-long speech to about 6,500 supporters at the Grand Park Events Center.
During a roughly five-minute introduction of Trump, Pence called on the crowd to put “a fighter, a builder and a patriot” in the Oval Office and said Clinton should be ineligible to run for president because of the death of U.S. personnel in Benghazi.
“As the proud father of a United States Marine, let me say from my heart we don’t need a president that took 13 hours to send help to Americans under fire,” Pence said. “Anyone who did that should be disqualified from ever being commander in chief of the armed forces of the United States of America.”
The attacks on Clinton were uncharacteristically fierce for Pence, who has eschewed negative campaigning in the past. But the comments are typical for vice presidential candidates, who are often called upon to act as attack dogs on the campaign trail.
The rally and a joint appearance with Trump earlier in the day at a Downtown fundraiser come as Trump is nearing a decision on a vice presidential candidate, with Pence considered a frontrunner.
While some Trump supporters in the audience were lukewarm about the idea of Pence joining the ticket, others said they saw something new in Pence’s speech.
“That’s the most exciting I’d ever heard or seen the man,” said Lyle Enyeart, a Pence supporter from Warsaw. “Man, what a ball of fire there.”
Pence, a staunch social conservative, could help Trump with religious conservatives who have been skeptical of Trump. In focusing on Clinton, Pence was hitting on a message likely to resonate with those conservatives.
Others under consideration for the vice presidential slot have also joined Trump on the campaign trail in recent days, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has compared the selection process to Trump’s reality TV show The Apprentice.
Those who attended the private fundraiser at the Columbia Club said Trump spoke highly of Pence. Indiana Senate leader David Long, a Fort Wayne Republican who attended the fundraiser, said that at one point Trump asked if Pence would be a good vice president and the crowd roared “Yes!”
Pence isn’t the only possible vice presidential pick who Trump has dropped hints about. At a rally in Ohio last week, he said Gingrich “will be involved with our government,” according to the Washington Post.
While the Indianapolis fundraiser and rally were filled with Trump supporters, the scene was less cordial outside the Columbia Club. Dozens of protesters chanted “Fire Mike Trump” and held signs with slogans such as “Pence Must Go” and “Trump: Divider in Chief.”
Several Democrat speakers said they thought Pence has hurt Indiana and a Trump-Pence ticket would be bad for the country.
State Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, said Indiana’s per capita income has fallen under Pence’s leadership and he signed a restrictive abortion law this year that she says takes choices away from women.
Trump rarely mentioned Pence during his speech Tuesday night, promising better trade deals that protect American jobs, a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and a tougher stance on terrorism.
He also pitched himself as the “law and order candidate” and offered his condolences to the families of the five police officers killed in Dallas last week.
“The hostility against our police has to end, and it has to end right now,” he said.
While Pence is seen as someone who could help Trump navigate Congress and tap conservative donor networks, it’s unclear how his strongly held positions on social issues would fare in a Trump administration.
Earlier in the day, Pence declined to directly answer questions about how he would address significant differences with Trump. Pence has publicly criticized Trump’s comments on abortion and has called his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country unconstitutional.
Instead, Pence said differences among Republicans are not unusual and that he plans to campaign hard for Trump. He even compared the billionaire businessman to a Republican icon.
“I think he is going to be a great president,” he told a group of reporters. “I think he is someone who has connected with everyday Americans like no one since Ronald Reagan.”
Kyle Kondik, an election analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said Trump’s appearances with Pence “might be a way to test out whether they complement each other well and are comfortable with each other.”
Pence is facing a tough race in Indiana against Democrat John Gregg, a former Indiana House speaker who narrowly lost to Pence in 2012. Polls have shown the two candidates in a virtual dead heat.
Democrats in Indiana have tried to capitalize on Pence’s role in the vice presidential hunt, but chasing the job has significantly raised Pence’s national profile, which could be important for someone with presidential ambitions.
And even if Pence is not selected, he may see a close association with Trump as beneficial to his gubernatorial re-election effort in a Republican-leaning state whose voters sealed Trump’s status as the presumptive GOP nominee.
Pence faces a Friday deadline to withdraw from the governor’s race to allow state party leaders to choose a replacement candidate.