In the midst of intense national speculation he could be the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said he remains committed to serving his home state.

The Republican governor stopped by the Bartholomew County 4-H Fair on Monday, where he renewed his yearly tradition of posing for pictures with residents, enjoying classic fair food and taking a tour of the 4-H exhibits.

As a major contender to be included on the Republican presidential ticket, Pence said he enjoys his annual trips to the fair because they serve as a reminder of his small town roots. He strolled hand-in-hand with his mother, Nancy Pence Fritsch, and greeted family members and old friends as he made his way across the fairgrounds.

Pence stopped by Columbus native Tony Stewart’s autograph session at the grandstand, surprising the racecar driver and the fans. It was unclear who was asking who for an autograph.

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Returning to the Bartholomew County Fair is often an emotional experience, Pence said, because it reminds him of the contrast of where he came from and where he is now.

“My mom’s dad immigrated to this country, mom and dad followed work down here to Columbus before I was born and I grew up in this great town,” the governor said. “To have the chance to be governor of the state that I love and even be considered for a position like (vice president), it’s a great honor for me, a great honor for my family.”

But unlike years past, the Columbus native could not be “just Mike” when he visited this year’s 4-H fair — he also was a potential vice presidential candidate. His tour of the fairgrounds was punctuated with whispered questions such as, “What will happen if he goes to Washington?”

Although no fairgoers directly asked Pence about his potential plans to join Trump on the Republican presidential ticket, the governor told reporters that for now, he remains dedicated to his current re-election bid.

“My focus is Indiana,” Pence said. “I’m focused on the Hoosier state, on governing in Indiana … as I’m doing tonight, my focus is on earning re-election as governor of this great state.”

Pence’s visit to the local fair came just one day before tonight’s scheduled appearance alongside Trump at a rally in Westfield. The rally will follow a private fundraising event that Pence is hosting in downtown Indianapolis this afternoon.

Many political experts say the rally is a signal that Trump will select Pence as his running mate and likely will make the announcement before he leaves the state tonight.

Bartholomew County Republican Party Chairwoman Barb Hackman agreed that if Trump is going to select Pence as the Republican vice presidential candidate, he likely will break the news at his rally this evening. The local Republican leader said the possibility of a Bartholomew County Republican becoming the nation’s vice president is an exciting prospect for the local Republican party.

“I’m looking forward to hearing a Trump-Pence ticket,” Hackman said as she followed the governor on his tour of the fairgrounds.

But Pence gave no indication that tonight’s event would serve as the launching pad for his potential road to the White House. Instead, he said the rally is an indication that Trump recognizes the strength of the Hoosier state.

“I really do believe it’s more of a reflection of the success we’ve been experiencing in the state of Indiana,” Pence said. “Indiana’s growing, and we’re growing on a foundation of a balanced budget, of low taxes, of the right investments in education and infrastructure.”

Even though he backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Indiana’s Republican presidential primary in May, Pence said Monday night that Trump now has his full support and that he feels honored to introduce the real estate mogul to Hoosiers in Westfield tonight.

Speaking about his meeting with Trump in New Jersey a little more than a week ago, Pence said he encountered a polite and gracious host who had good ideas for taking the country in the new direction.

“We cannot have more of the same leadership that’s caused America to essentially be struggling at home and abroad,” Pence said. “I think Donald Trump is going to provide the kind of leadership, support for our troops, support for our veterans, the kind of policies that will get this economy really moving again and, of course, set into motion the kind of appointments to the Supreme Court that will also create a strong foundation in the rule of law.”

But even though he said it was an honor for Trump to even consider him as his potential running mate, the governor also said, for now, he would keep his focus on serving Hoosiers not as their vice president, but as their governor.

If you go

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will spend appear at a rally for Donald Trump this evening:

  • When: 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Grand Park Events Center, 711 E. 91st St., Westfield
  • Who: Donald Trump and Mike Pence will appear at the rally
  • Doors open and seating begins at 4:30 p.m.
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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.