WASHINGTON — Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump said Tuesday that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are his top potential picks to be his vice president.
He told the Wall Street Journal that he wants an experienced government leader as his running mate. He added that he is considering Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who hasn’t gotten as much attention as the others.
Two sources familiar with the selection process confirmed to CNN Christie remains a finalist.
One of those sources also said Trump wants a “fighter” and Christie fits the bill. The comments echo Trump’s remarks to the Journal that he wants a candidate who can help him attack Hillary Clinton and her eventual vice presidential pick.
“I’m getting attacked from all sides,” Trump said.
Trump on Wednesday morning had breakfast at the Indiana Governor’s Mansion with Pence.
Trump dined with the Pences last night, a Trump adviser also told CNN.
The source says — as Trump headed to have breakfast with Pence this morning — the VP decision still was not made.
“It’s not settled,” the Trump adviser said. “Trump is being pushed in one direction but his gut has gotten him to where he is.”
Trump and Christie are scheduled to speak by phone today, two sources told CNN.
According to another source familiar with the process, Christie is interested in the vice president job but not “campaigning for it.”
The source said Christie has not heard from Trump regarding his decision or the timing.
“It’s clearly serious. He’s clearly in the final group,” the source said.
A Trump adviser said this is essentially a last chance for these guys to each make their pitch.
“That’s exactly what these guys are doing right now – is saying ‘here’s why I’m better than X.'”
In addition to Christie’s governing experience, this source said Christie’s skills on the debate stage and the campaign trail could be appealing to Trump.
“He’s a gifted debater,” the source said, and “the most publicity that any VP candidate is going to get is the debate.”
Trump will likely make the announcement of his pick on Friday, a source familiar with deliberations told CNN.
Trump said he hasn’t been able to measure Pence’s “fighting spirit” and their personal chemistry, but the Indiana governor introduced Trump at a rally in his state yesterday, which could be a tryout for the role.
Pence slammed Clinton, saying she “must never become president of the United States.”
Earlier in the day, Pence compared Trump to Ronald Reagan and used the phrase “make America great again” when he spoke with reporters after an event in Indianapolis.
“I think he is someone who has connected with everyday Americans like no one since Ronald Reagan,” Pence said. “I think he has spoken into the frustration and the longings of the American people as no one since the 40th president, and I think you’re going to continue to see him do that.”
Some donors are pressuring Trump to pick Gingrich as his vice president. A source close to Sheldon Adelson told CNN that the casino magnate spoke to Trump and said that “he liked Newt.”
Many establishment Republicans on Capitol Hill were warming to the idea of Trump potentially choosing Pence, who served in House GOP leadership.
“I have the highest, highest regard for Mike. He’s a personal friend of ours and mine,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters on Tuesday.