Mike Pence suspends campaign for Republican presidential nomination

<span>Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
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Mike Pence, the former vice-president under Donald Trump, has suspended his campaign to become the Republican nominee for president in the 2024 election.

Pence announced at an event held by the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas on Saturday that he was dropping out of the race, in which he has been lagging, along with others, far behind frontrunner Trump.

“I came here to say it’s become clear to me this is not my time, so after much prayer and deliberation I have decided to suspend my campaign for president, effective today,” Pence said.

Pence, 64 and the former governor of his home state of Indiana, after representing it as one of its congressman, had been leading a struggling campaign for a while. He had not yet qualified for the third GOP debate on 8 November, falling short on required donations.

But his announcement on Saturday during an event attended by other prominent candidates for the party’s nomination next year, including Trump and Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, came as a surprise to most.

Appearing on the stage at the event in Nevada, Pence, a Christian hard-right conservative, said: “The Bible tells us there is a time for every purpose under heaven” and he went on to add: “This is not my time.”

As he made the announcement, with a trademark absence of visible emotion, there was a collective gasp among the audience gathered at the event, which was expecting to hear rallying remarks as he continued his campaign.

Instead, Pence made his announcement drily then put more power in his voice as he said: “Now, I’m leaving this campaign, but let me promise you, I will never leave the fight for conservative values and I will never stop fighting to elect principled Republican leaders to every office in the land, so help me God.”

The crowd then broke into cheers, whistles and sustained applause, with Pence saying a quiet “thank you” after some minutes.

His campaign for the presidency never caught fire. He was a loyal lieutenant to Trump throughout the New York Republican’s controversial single term despite Trump being twice impeached, for extorting Ukraine and for inciting the insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021.

That ended, though, when Pence made the definitive move that caused an irreparable breach between him and Trump. The then vice-president refused to go along with exhortations from Trump that he decline, in his role as president of the US Senate, to certify Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory over Trump.

When Trump then condemned Pence for that via social media, as crowds of extremists were surging to the Capitol then broke in to try, in vain, to force a halt to Biden’s certification, many began chanting “Hang Mike Pence”.

The vice-president, in the congressional chamber to certify the result on 6 January, had to flee for his safety along with other members of Congress as the mob invaded the building. Biden’s victory over Trump was certified by Congress in a battered Capitol in the early hours of 7 January, although many Republicans refused to endorse it.

When Pence launched his campaign for the 2024 GOP nomination, however, in June, he chastised Trump for his “reckless” actions on 6 January.

Pence touted his record in Congress and as Indiana governor, during which he supported legislation against abortion and expanded government spending, and repeated ideas from his campaign video released hours earlier including addressing inflation, the national debt and issues at the US-Mexico border.

He also pointed to his time as vice-president, touting some of the policies that he and Trump pushed forth in their term.

He first noted: “I was proud to stand by President Donald Trump every day”, then said: “The American people deserve to know that on that day [6 January 2021], President Trump also demanded that I choose between him and the constitution … And anyone who asked someone else to put them over the constitution should never be president of the United States again.”

Pence is strongly anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ+ equality, a fiscal conservative and a foreign policy hawk.

“I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order,” Pence said at his launch, repeating a frequently used phrase.

Trump’s base of core supporters never forgave Pence for overseeing the certification of Biden’s election to the White House, viewing it as a supreme act of disloyalty to their icon.

Pence stopped short of endorsing anyone in his speech on Saturday, but in an apparent swipe at Trump, called on Americans to select someone who appeals to “the better angels of our nature” and can lead with “civility”.

Pence failed to attract enough anti-Trump Republican primary voters, and donors, to sustain a candidacy that has languished in the low single digits in opinion polls and struggled to raise money since he announced his White House bid in June.

As a result Pence, a stolid campaigner short on charisma, was low on cash by October and despite spending time and resources in the first Republican nominating state of Iowa, had failed to catch fire there.

When his campaign released Pence’s third-quarter fundraising totals on 15 October, his candidacy was $620,000 in debt and only had $1.2m cash on hand, far less than several better-performing Republican rivals and insufficient to sustain the financial demands of a White House race.

In several past elections, former vice-presidents who have competed to become the White House nominee have succeeded, including Republican George HW Bush in 1988 and Democrat Al Gore in 2000.

Reuters contributed reporting