INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Mike Pence announced Friday that he will be voting for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in Indiana's Republican presidential primary Tuesday.
But Pence held back from calling on all Hoosier Republicans to also support Cruz and seemingly went out of his way to avoid alienating the GOP front-runner, Donald Trump.
"I'm not against anybody, but I will be voting for Ted Cruz," Pence said on Indianapolis' WIBC-FM radio.
"I see Ted Cruz as a principled conservative who has dedicated his career to advocating the (Ronald) Reagan agenda and I'm pleased to support him."
At the same time, Pence commended Trump for giving voice "to the frustration of millions of working Americans with the lack of progress in Washington, D.C."
"Donald Trump has taken a strong stand for Hoosier jobs when we saw jobs at the Carrier company abruptly announce they'd be leaving Indiana, not for another state but for Mexico," Pence said. "I'm grateful for his voice in the national debate."
Pence's refusal to make a full-throated Cruz endorsement likely won't do much to improve the status of the Texas senator in Indiana. In addition, more than 110,000 Republicans already have cast their ballots, according to the secretary of state.
An April 27-28 American Research Group poll of 400 likely Indiana Republican voters found Trump is favored by 41 percent, Cruz stands at 32 percent and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who isn't campaigning in the state, is the choice of 21 percent.
The survey has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 5 percent.
In making his announcement, Pence seemed intent on preventing blowback from Trump supporters — and perhaps not getting slapped with a derisive nickname from the former Gary casino owner — by pledging "I'm going to work my heart out" for the GOP nominee.
"I just encourage every Hoosier to examine all these candidates as I have, listen carefully to all of their positions, make their decision, exercise their right to vote this coming Tuesday, if not before," Pence said.
"At the end of the day, I'm very confident that our party is going to come together around our nominee — whoever that might be — and we're going to deliver a great victory for all the people of the United States this fall."
It's not yet known what impact Pence's support for Cruz will have on his own lackluster standing among Hoosiers.
A recent poll found just 49 percent of Indiana voters want Pence to be re-elected in November.
Pence now is tied to Cruz's positions in favor of restricting transgender bathroom use and further limiting abortion rights, which polls show are unpopular with a majority of Hoosiers, including many Republicans.
Moreover, Cruz consistently has promised to "repeal every word of Obamacare," which would terminate Pence's Healthy Indiana Plan and take health coverage away from some 400,000 Hoosiers.
Cruz has pulled out all the stops this week in trying to win the lion's share of Indiana's 57 GOP convention delegates, even going so far as to name former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina as his choice for vice president.
His goal is to prevent Trump from claiming the Republican presidential nomination on the first ballot at the July 18-21 national convention in the hope that delegates will choose Cruz on a subsequent ballot.