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Mike Pence suspends his struggling 2024 campaign

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arrives at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s Annual Leadership Summit at The Venetian Resort on Saturday in Las Vegas.  (Ethan Miller)
By Maeve Reston Washington Post

Mike Pence announced on Saturday at the Republican Jewish Coalition gathering in Las Vegas that he was suspending his campaign and exiting the race for the GOP nomination.

He received a standing ovation from a room full of some of the most influential donors in the party as he said he had concluded that it is not his time.

“After much prayer and deliberation I have decided to suspend my campaign for president,” he said. “Let me promise you I will never leave the fight for conservative values and I will never stop.”

“We always knew this would be an uphill battle, but I have no regrets,” he said. “The only thing that would have been harder than coming up short.”

Alluding to his effort to convince Republican voters to choose someone other than former president Donald Trump, he urged GOP voters to choose a Republican standard-bearer who would “appeal to the better angels of our nature, and not only lead us to victory, but lead our nation with civility back to the time-honored principles that have always made America strong and prosperous and free.”

Pence has struggled to win over GOP voters and donors since the moment that he entered the campaign this summer. He was facing growing debt, very limited cash on hand to spend in the primary season and went so far as to give $150,000 of his own money to his campaign, according to recent filings with the Federal Election Commission. He raised $3.3 million, the least of any current GOP candidates except Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and spent almost the same amount in the third quarter of the year. He had $1.1 million cash on hand and a debt of $620,000 at the end of the quarter.

The former vice president had struggled to gain ground in polling, hovering around fifth place nationally, and sixth and seventh in Iowa and New Hampshire – key early states where he would have needed a strong finish to build momentum for the primary gauntlet.

His struggle to raise money and to gain any traction above single-digits in the polls – which are critical metrics for making the next debate stage in Miami in November – reflected the antipathy toward the former vice president among rank-and-file GOP voters, who are still angry that he refused to overturn the 2020 election results at Trump’s request, a power he did not have. Pence defended his actions and directly confronted the disappointment of those voters during his extensive book tour last year for his memoir “So Help Me God.”

He tirelessly argued on the book tour and later on the campaign trail that he faithfully carried out his constitutional duties during the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol when Trump’s supporters attempted to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s victory by Congress. He often tried to redirect Trump supporters to consider the overall achievements that he and Trump accomplished together in their administration. And he expressed disappointment and sorrow about Trump’s conduct following the election.

But that approach fell flat. Even voters who find Trump distasteful did not warm to Pence, who struggled build crowds even in states like Iowa where he had hoped his deep connection to evangelical voters was going to serve as a springboard toward a surprise finish in the Iowa caucuses.

He was frequently overshadowed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, who had somewhat less complicated histories with Trump and strong arguments about their path to the nomination.

Now with less than 100 days until the Iowa caucuses, Pence was facing serious challenges in paying for the day-to-day activities of a campaign, including the hefty fees that are levied for candidates to get on the ballot in states all over the country. More importantly, he faced deep skepticism among donors who could not visualize his path to the Republican nomination. Ultimately those challenges were too difficult to overcome and Saturday he bowed out before appreciative audience that has long admired his efforts to support Israel.

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Meryl Kornfield contributed to this report.