WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald Trump abruptly postponed his planned announcement on Friday of his vice presidential running mate because of a deadly truck attack in France, but Republican sources said his choice was expected to be Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
Viewed as a safe pair of hands, Pence, 57, has diverging views with Trump on his proposed Muslim ban and trade, and is more socially conservative, but he could help unify a divided party behind Trump's White House bid.
Trump was due to make his official announcement on his choice on Friday at 11 a.m. (1500 GMT) in Manhattan. But he tweeted on Thursday night that the attack in Nice, where a truck slammed into a crowd, killing dozens of people, prompted him to delay.
In light of the horrible attack in Nice, France, I have postponed tomorrow's news conference concerning my Vice Presidential announcement.
"In light of the horrible attack in Nice, France, I have postponed tomorrow's news conference concerning my Vice Presidential announcement," said Trump. He said in a Fox News interview: "We will announce tomorrow when it will be."
Trump, who has proposed banning Muslims from "terror states" from entering the United States, said in another Fox News interview that the attack in France showed the United States and the rest of the world needed to get tougher in the fight against Islamist militants.
"This has to be dealt with very harshly," Trump said.
He told Fox News he had not made a "final, final decision" on a running mate. He heaped praise on Pence and his other two finalists, former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
"I've got three people that are fantastic," he said.
Trump's advisers told national party officials that he had settled on Pence, according to two Republican sources familiar with the campaign's operations.
"I'm told he's been asked to do this and he's flying to New York," one source said. Pence was seen by TV networks arriving at a New York-area airport.
Trump, 70, a New York businessman, is to be formally nominated as the party's candidate for the Nov. 8 presidential election at the Republican National Convention next week in Cleveland. Traditionally, the vice presidential choice is used to build enthusiasm among party loyalists.
Trump's choice of running mate is seen as especially critical because his defeat of 16 rivals in the Republican primary race left the party divided. Some party leaders are still uneasy about some of his campaign positions and free-wheeling statements, such as his comments on Muslims and immigrants.
"Pence is Donald Trump's straight man," said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean. "He'll be able to defend him as well as be a cheerleader but do it in a calm, cool, collected manner that will preserve his credibility."
Gingrich, who met Trump on Wednesday, said on a Facebook Live session that he had yet to hear from Trump. He said he had told Trump that he needed to decide whether he wanted "two pirates" on the same ticket. Both men have been political mavericks.
Christie, a former rival to Trump in the presidential race, told MSNBC earlier he would be disappointed if not picked. "I'm not going to say it won't bother me if I'm not selected. Of course it bothers you a little bit."
Pence, a former congressman, is seen as a safe choice, not too flashy but popular among conservatives, with Midwestern appeal and the ability to rally more party faithful behind Trump. The businessman has never held elected office.
"He's a good, safe, solid conservative," said Republican strategist Scott Reed.
Pence also could give a boost to Trump's campaign fundraising efforts as he challenges the well-organized effort of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Pence has strong ties to billionaire donors Charles and David Koch, including current and former staff members who have worked for them.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO
But Pence is to the right of Trump on social issues, having signed restrictive abortion legislation and pushed to defund the Planned Parenthood women's healthcare organization, whose services include providing abortions. Trump has said he opposes abortion, but his views have been inconsistent, and he has said Planned Parenthood provides some valuable services.
Pence has also criticized Trump's proposal to ban Muslims temporarily from entering the country. In 2006, he introduced immigration legislation that would let illegal immigrants apply for U.S. work visas if they left the country for a period, a plan that was criticized by some conservatives. That contrasts with Trump's strong stance on immigration, marked by his pledge to build a wall along the border with Mexico.
Pence has also voiced support for free trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership. Trump supports free trade but says he wants to renegotiate trade deals to make them more favorable to the United States.
Pence had backed a Trump rival, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, in April before the Indiana primary, but he praised Trump and said he would work on behalf of the eventual Republican nominee. Trump won Indiana anyway, prompting Cruz to drop out of the race to be the party's nominee.
Pence had considered running for president himself in 2016 before deciding to run for re-election as governor. Conservatives had urged him to seek the White House, but missteps last year related to an Indiana law seen as anti-gay hurt his national profile.
This year, he was the target of a mocking social media campaign by women outraged at a law he signed creating new restrictions on abortions. Feeling that the law invaded their privacy, women responded by calling Pence's office to describe their menstrual periods or tweeting similar messages.
Pence ran unsuccessfully for Congress twice before he won election to the House of Representatives in 2000, where he was chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservatives.
See images of Trump's potential running mates:
Donald Trump's potential running mates, VPs
Donald Trump's potential running mates, VPs
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich could provide Trump with exactly what he is looking for in a running mate — an experienced lawmaker who pushed legislation through Congress for years.
Though he has been actively aboard the Kasich bandwagon in recent days, Gingrich has come to Trump's defense regarding both the establishment backlash to his candidacy and the controversy the frontrunner found himself in after initially failing in a CNN interview to disavow support from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
(Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence
Pence is rumored to be one of the final few people on Donald Trump's short list to be running mate. He appeared with him mere days before Trump was expected to announce his decision, and even met with Trump's family.
Pence found himself in the spotlight in recent months after defending Indiana's religious liberty law that was criticized by many as being discriminatory against the LGBT community.
(Photo by REUTERS/John Sommers II)
A wildcard choice for sure, some began to wonder if Donald Trump might consider naming his daughter as his running mate after Sen. Bob Corker suggested the move shortly after taking himself out of the mix.
Ivanka, who would turn 35 mere days before the election, has not addressed the rumors, but brother Eric backed her.
(Photo by REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)
The 57-year-old retired lieutenant general has been advising the campaign on foreign affairs for months, but as Flynn's under-the-radar candidacy gained steam as Trump's decision drew near.
Conservative supporters have warned that Flynn isn't sufficiently tough on social issues.
(Photo by REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File photo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is the only 2016 GOP presidential candidate who has endorsed Trump since leaving the race.
Christie could help Trump with more moderate GOP voters, and he certainly has the bombastic personality that would serve as a useful surrogate for Trump, though the two also fiercely criticized each other when they were both candidates in the race.
Back in November, Trump said Christie could have a "place" on his ticket.
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama is the only sitting senator to endorse Trump — and he has already been tapped to lead Trump's national-security advisory committee.
"A movement is afoot that must not fade away," Sessions said during the Alabama rally where he announced his support last month.
Sessions is one of the staunchest supporters of Trump's hard-line plan to crack down on illegal immigration. The senator could also give Trump credibility in the South.
(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Former Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts was the first current or former senator to endorse Trump. He was known in the Senate as a moderate, and he could help pick up votes with some in the less conservative wing of the Republican Party.
He has supported abortion rights and is in favor of banning assault weapons, but he carries a blue-collar, populist persona. Brown memorably drove a pickup truck to campaign events during his 2010 Senate run in Massachusetts, which was to fill a vacant seat.
During a January event in New Hampshire, Trump said Brown was cut out of "central casting" and could be his vice president. Brown said at the time that Trump was "the next president of the United States."
(Photo by Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
"I was Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular," Gov. Paul LePage of Maine said while announcing his support for the GOP frontrunner last month on "The Howie Carr Show."
The governor is comparable to Trump when it comes to provocative remarks. In January, LePage found himself at the center of a national firestorm after he made some racially tinged comments about out-of-state drug dealers who come into Maine and "impregnate a young white girl" before leaving.
"Now I get to defend all the good stuff he says," LePage has said of Trump.
LePage also entered politics after a successful business career, but he was reportedly staunchly opposed to Trump's candidacy before suddenly coming on board.
(Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
Last week, BuzzFeed reported that advisers close to Huckabee thought the vice-president nod was in the cards for their guy.
Of all the former 2016 White House contenders, Huckabee may be closest to Trump ideologically. Huckabee struck a populist tone on cultural issues and, like Trump, vowed to protect Social Security and Medicare if elected.
(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Aside from a few brushups in the fall, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio has barely touched Trump along the trail. The same can be said for Trump, whose most brutal attack against Kasich is that he "got lucky" because of the natural-gas reserves in his state.
It has been rumored that Trump would be interested in Kasich as his running mate, though Trump has also recently started criticizing Kasich on the campaign trail.
Kasich has the political experience that Trump says he's seeking. Kasich also hails from the Midwest, one of the most competitive regions in the past few presidential races.
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
It has been an ongoing rumor that Gov. Rick Scott of Florida will endorse Trump after Scott wrote a gushing op-ed article in USA Today in January.
Like Trump, Scott rose to power from the business world. But Scott also has clout in the largest general-election swing state. In addition, he has six years of government experience behind him after being elected to office in 2010.
John McCain's running mate in 2008, Sarah Palin was a big get for Trump when she endorsed the frontrunner over Ted Cruz, whom she had vigorously campaigned for during his Senate run in 2012.
If Trump is interested in a sharp break with the Republican establishment, picking Palin would certainly send that signal.
It's an open question, however, as to whether she boosted or hindered McCain's run during the 2008 race.
(Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Oklahoma Republican Governor Mary Fallin makes remarks before the opening of the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, in this February 22, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Mike Theiler/Files