Pence suspends presidential campaign

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LAS VEGAS — Former Vice President Mike Pence announced on Saturday that he was suspending his presidential campaign in a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition conference.

“The Bible tells us that there’s a time for every purpose under heaven. Traveling across the country over the past six months, I came here to say it’s become clear to me that this is not my time. So after much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to suspend my campaign for president effective today,” Pence said, to audible gasps from the audience gathered at the Venetian resort on the Las Vegas strip.

Attendees gave Pence a standing ovation. One person yelled, “Thank you Mike!” At the conclusion of the speech, Pence invited his wife, Karen, onstage.

“We thank God for his amazing grace. He gave us the courage to step forward so many years ago. And the wisdom to step aside,” Pence said. “My fellow Republicans, thank you for your kindness, your support and your prayers over the many years. As we go home to Indiana, let me assure you that we leave here with optimism and faith. We don’t know what the future holds. But we know who holds the future, and with faith in him and boundless confidence in all of you, we know the best days for America and our most cherished ally, Israel, are yet to come.”

There was no hint of Pence dropping out in the prepared remarks his aides distributed yesterday to reporters. And RJC officials said they had no indication Pence was about to make the announcement. It was, according to Fred Zeidman, a major GOP donor in attendance, a “total shock.” The crowd, Zeidman noted, “treated him with all the respect he deserves. What a mensch.”

Pence has struggled to raise money and gain traction in the polls as he built a campaign on religious conservative values and a continued break with Donald Trump over the events on Jan. 6. He had only $1.2 million in cash on hand as of the end of last month, roughly equal to what he’d been spending on a monthly basis over the previous quarter, according to a recent filing with the Federal Election Commission.

And while he’d met the Republican National Committee’s polling criteria for an invitation to the Nov. 8 primary debate in Miami, he’d not yet met the 70,000-individual-donor threshold and only had another nine days to do so.

Pence’s announcement came as all the major candidates, including Trump, gathered for the three-day conference. DeSantis, who immediately followed Pence, did not acknowledge the announcement while on stage but did so in a statement after the fact. Nikki Haley, whose campaign has feuded with Pence’s in the past, took a few moments to praise the former vice president ahead of her remarks.

“He’s been a good man of faith. He’s been a good man of service. He has fought for America, and he has fought for Israel, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude,” Haley said.

Pence had largely focused his campaign on Iowa, a state rich with the religious voters that he hoped to connect with. His advisers insisted as early as last week that he would remain in the campaign until Iowa, and were said to be putting together an Iowa trip for this coming week. But the evangelical Pence struggled to gain traction, trailing far behind Trump and other rivals.

Pence always had a tough road. The former vice president was looking to appeal to non-Trump-aligned voters who liked the stance he took on Jan. 6. But he was also tied to the Trump White House in which he served. Pro-Trump voters had little interest in getting behind him and many of those opposed to the former president never regarded him as part of their camp either.

“We always knew this would be an uphill battle, but I have no regrets,” Pence said. “The only thing that would’ve been harder than coming up short would’ve been if we had never tried at all.”