For most Republican voters and pro-life Americans, Donald Trump wasn’t the first pick to become the Republican standard-bearer against Hillary Clinton And with his promise to take pro-life action but his misstatements on Planned Parenthood, pro-life voters are having a hard time working up enough enthusiasm to support Trump.
Selecting Mike Pence, a pro-life champion, will help. But this will help as well — knowledge that Trump consulted with respected Christian leaders prior to making the selection.
The phone call came at 11:30pm on Wednesday. I’ve made my decision, Donald Trump told Jerry Falwell, Jr., before revealing that Indiana Governor Mike Pence would be his running mate. “Nobody knows but you,” the Liberty University president says Trump told him.
Trump’s pick came after three days of in-depth calls back-and-forth with evangelical leaders on whether Pence or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich would better appeal to their constituents. “He really is giving weight to the evangelical vote—it was his primary consideration,” Falwell says. “I made it clear to him that myself, and I believe the evangelical world, would strongly embrace either one.”
Trump’s late night call to Falwell was their fourth in three days. Earlier Wednesday morning, Trump called and listened as Falwell offered pros and cons for each of his two finalists: Pence may not have as great of name recognition, but Gingrich was more polarizing. “He joked, ‘You wouldn’t believe how they well vet these candidates, but the only one they don’t vet is me!’” Falwell says. “But, he added, ‘The American people vet me pretty well.’”
After they hung up, Falwell called Franklin Graham, who was on vacation in Alaska, to get his thoughts. Falwell gave him Trump’s number so Graham could discuss his opinions with the candidate directly. After Graham talked with Trump, he and Falwell debriefed. Graham, who maintains that he is not an advocate for a political party, declined to comment on his call with Trump. “It was a private conversation,” he told TIME through a spokesman. Graham was also part of a small group of evangelicals, including Falwell, who met privately with Trump in June.