On Saturday, former Vice President Mike Pence revealed to the Republican Jewish Coalition convention that he was quitting his bid for the presidency.
“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.”
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The planned speech his staff released to the media yesterday made no mention of Pence withdrawing from the race. Officials from the RJC also claimed they were caught off guard by Pence’s remarks. Major GOP donor Fred Zeidman described the event as a “total shock.” The crowd, Zeidman noted, “treated him with all the respect he deserves. What a mensch.”
Pence’s campaign on Christian conservative beliefs and a prolonged rupture with Donald Trump over the events of January 6 has been met with difficulty in fundraising and polling. According to his most recent FEC report, he only had $1.2 million in cash on hand at the end of last month, which is about the same as what he had been spending each month over the preceding quarter.
Although he had polled high enough to be invited to the Republican National Committee’s primary debate in Miami on November 8, he had only nine days left to raise the required sum from 70,000 individual donors.
All the main candidates, including Trump, had already arrived for the three-day gathering when Pence made his statement. Unlike Pence, who responded to the news during his speech, DeSantis issued a statement afterward. In preparation for her speech, Nikki Haley praised Mike Pence, despite the fact that her campaign has been at odds with his in the past.
“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’s path has always been difficult. The goal of the former vice president’s January 6 statement was to win over those who did not support President Trump but who were impressed by his attitude. On the other hand, he had ties to the Trump administration because he worked there. Many of those who voted against Obama never considered him to be on their side, and Trump supporters had no interest in supporting him.
“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.”