'This is not my time': Former Vice President Mike Pence withdraws from US 2024 presidential race

28 October 2023, 21:52

Mike Pence was Vice President under Donald Trump's tenure in the White House
Mike Pence was Vice President under Donald Trump's tenure in the White House. Picture: Getty/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Former US Vice President Mike Pence has dropped his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, ending his campaign after struggling to raise money and gain traction in the polls.

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Mr Pence said at the Republican Jewish Coalition gathering in Las Vegas: "After much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to suspend my campaign for president effective today.

"We always knew this would be an uphill battle, but I have no regrets."

Mr Pence becomes the first major candidate to leave a race that has been dominated by his former boss-turned-rival, Donald Trump.

The decision, more than two months before the Iowa caucuses that he had staked his campaign on, saves Mr Pence from the embarrassment of failing to qualify for the third Republican primary debate on November 8 in Miami.

While Mr Pence averted a constitutional crisis by rejecting the scheme, he drew Mr Trump's fury, as well as the wrath of many of Mr Trump's supporters who believed him and still see Mr Pence as a traitor.

Among Mr Trump critics, meanwhile, Mr Pence was seen as an enabler who defended the former president at every turn and refused to criticise even the former president's most indefensible actions time and again.

Mike Pence
Mike Pence. Picture: Getty

As a result, an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research from August found that the majority of US adults, 57%, viewed Mr Pence negatively, with only 28% having a positive view.

Throughout his campaign, the former Indiana governor and congressman had insisted that while he was well-known by voters, he was not "known well", and set out to change that with an aggressive schedule that included numerous stops at diners and Pizza Ranch restaurants.

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Mr Pence had been betting on Iowa, a state with a large white Evangelical population that has a long history of elevating religious and socially conservative candidates such as former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Rick Santorum.

Mr Pence often campaigned with his wife, Karen, a Christian school teacher, and emphasised his hardline views on issues such as abortion, which he opposes even in cases when a pregnancy is unviable.

He repeatedly called on his fellow candidates to support a minimum 15-week national ban and he pushed to ban drugs used as alternatives to surgical procedures.

He tried to confront head-on his actions on January 6 2021, explaining to voters over and over that he had done his constitutional duty that day, knowing full well the political consequences.

It was a strategy that aides believed would help defuse the issue and earn Mr Pence the respect of a majority of Republicans, whom they were were convinced did not agree with Mr Trump's actions.

But even in Iowa, Pence struggled to gain traction.

He had an equally uphill climb with donors, despite years of connections. Mr Pence ended September with just 1.18 million dollars (£972,282) in the bank and 621,000 dollars (£512,000) in debt, according to his most recent campaign filing.

That debt number probably has grown in the weeks since and seemingly will take years for Pence, who is not independently wealthy, to pay off.

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