CHICAGO (CBS) — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Friday endorsed Ted Cruz for president, tossing a lifeline to the Texas senator in a state that is now critical to his political survival.
“I like and respect all three of the Republican candidates,” Pence told the Greg Garrison Show on WIBC in Indianapolis. “I will be voting for Ted Cruz in the Republican primary.”
“I see Ted Cruz as a principled conservative,” in the mold of Ronald Reagan, Pence said.
“This is about choosing between three good men, all of whom I like and respect.”
The Indiana governor also specifically praised Donald Trump’s campaign, especially the New York mogul’s commitment to keeping jobs in the United States.
While Cruz was campaigning in Indianapolis on Friday morning, one of four stops in the state today, Pence chose to appear separately on talk radio just a few hours later.
The Indiana primary is next Tuesday, and Pence met with all three candidates–Trump, Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Previously, there were indications that Pence might not make an endorsement.
Politically, Pence was is a tough spot as he seeks a second-term as governor. Would he choose the front-runner, Trump, or back Cruz, with whom Pence is more aligned politically? That answer came around lunchtime, although the governor avoided appearing with Cruz in public.
Earlier this week, Kasich said he was conceding the state, clearing a path, in theory, for Cruz to derail Trump. However, that agreement didn’t last long, as Kasich still encouraged his backers in Indiana to vote for him.
The state is now viewed as critical for Cruz to stop Trump from securing the nomination outright before the GOP convention this summer in Cleveland.
Cruz has been spending a tremendous amount of time in the Hoosier state and considers a Pence endorsement a key to shoring up the state’s evangelical voters.
Polling shows a tightening race between Cruz and Trump, but Trump has held onto 2 percent to 9 percent edge, depending on the poll.
Indiana has 57 delegates. The statewide winner gets 30. The winner in each of nine congressional districts gets three apiece.