LAS VEGAS, NV. – Former Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday announced that he is suspending his 2024 Republican presidential campaign.
“I came here to say it’s become clear to me this is not my time,” Pence said in his surprise announcement at the annual Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) convention.
“So after much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to suspend my campaign for president effective today.”
The former vice president did not endorse any of the other candidates for the 2024 GOP nomination.
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The former vice president launched his 2024 campaign in early June. While he spent plenty of time over the summer and into the autumn on the campaign trail in the crucial early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, his White House bid never took off.
Pence stood in the mid to low single digits in the latest surveys and his fundraising was meager. The former vice president struggled — but ultimately succeeded to reach the polling and donor thresholds to qualify for the first two Republican presidential nomination debates. But as of Saturday, he still remained short of hitting the criteria to make the stage at next month’s third debate.
Sources in Pence’s political orbit tell Fox News the final decision to drop out of the race came just in the past day or two, after recent fundraising didn’t alleviate concerns about reaching the donor threshold to qualify for the Nov. 8 debate in Miami.
“You know, we always knew this would be an uphill battle, but I have no regrets. The only thing that would have been harder than coming up short would have been if we’d never tried at all,” Pence told the crowd at the RJC’s annual leadership meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, as he announced the suspension of his White House bid.
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Pence told the crowd, to applause and cheers, that “I say this is not my time, but it’s still your time. I urge you to hold fast to what matters faith, family, and the Constitution of the United States of America. I’m proud that our campaign stood firm on America’s role as leader of the free world.”
And Pence made a final appeal for the GOP to return to its conservative roots and resist what he’s repeatedly called the “siren song of populism” in a Republican Party dramatically reshaped by his two-two running mate – former President Donald Trump.
RJC chief executive officer Matt Brooks told Fox News that “from his time in Congress to his time as governor to his time as vice president, Mike Pence has been an unwavering friend and a critical ally in defense of Israel and in defense of the Jewish community in combating anti-Semitism.”
“He’s always answered the call, and he’s always been an incredible friend and I think that was reflected in the response he got from the audience,” Brooks emphasized.
Trump – the commanding front-runner for the GOP nomination as he makes his third straight White House run – and all of his top 2024 rivals addressed RJC leadership meeting.
Trump – who spoke about 25 minutes after Pence – made no reference to the news of his former running mate’s departure from the 2024 race.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaking directly after the former vice president, also didn’t address Pence’s breaking news.
But the next speaker, former ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, started her address by praising Pence.
“I want to first say just a special point to Vice President Mike Pence. 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 to applause from the crowd.
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina spoke earlier in the day at the RJC confab. But after Pence suspended his campaign, Scott said in a statement that “the Vice President has been a prayer partner, a friend, and a man of integrity and deep conviction. The Republican Party is stronger today because of Mike’s leadership.”
Pence, a former conservative congressman, was Indiana governor when Trump named him his running mate in 2016. For four years, Pence served as the loyal vice president to Trump.
However, everything changed on Jan. 6, 2021, as right-wing extremists — including some chanting “hang Mike Pence” — stormed the U.S. Capitol aiming to upend congressional certification of President Biden’s Electoral College victory that was overseen by Pence.
In the more than two years since the end of the Trump administration, the former president and vice president have further drifted apart. Pence has rebuked his former boss, calling him out by name while discussing Trump’s claim that Pence could have overturned the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Pence has described the deadly attack on the Capitol as “tragic” and that “it dishonored the millions of people who had supported our cause around the country.” He has emphasized that he did “the right thing” and performed his “duty under the Constitution.” He has also noted a number of times that he and Trump may never “see eye to eye on that day.”
But hardcore Trump loyalists never forgave Pence, whom they view as a traitor for refusing to reject the 2020 election results.
Pence became the first running mate in eight decades to run against his former boss. Then-Vice President John Nance Garner was the last to attempt it, but he unsuccessfully challenged President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 election.
Pence, in his stump speeches, touted the Trump-Pence administration’s policy successes but contrasted himself with the controversial former president in terms of tone and tenor.
“People around the country want us to see us restore a threshold of civility in our political debate,” Pence said. “You can disagree without being disagreeable. People that know me know I take very strong stands. I’m conservative, but I’m not in a bad mood about it.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who also addressed the audience at the RJC conference on Saturday ahead of Pence, said in a statement that I am beyond grateful for everything Vice President Mike Pence has done for this country. He has consistently fought for American values from his time in Congress to his governorship and serving the American people as Vice President.”
“Mike Pence stood for the constitution of the United States. He deserves our thanks as Americans for putting his oath of office and the Constitution of the United States before personal and political pressure,” Christie emphasized.
Pence two weeks ago hinted at his campaign’s difficulties.
“It may be obvious in the days ahead that other campaigns have more money than ours. But it’s not about money. It’s about votes,” Pence said on Oct. 13 as he filed to place his name on New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary ballot.
“We’re going to do our very best to marshal our resources,” Pence said. But he acknowledged that “.we probably have to be a little bit more selective in where we invest resources.”
Pence becomes the first major Republican presidential contender to drop out of the 2024 GOP nomination race.
Four lesser known candidates who all failed to qualify for the debates had already suspended their campaigns.
There are former CIA agent and former Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami, Florida, business leader and quality control expert Perry Johnson, and 2021 California gubernatorial recall election candidate and former conservative talk radio host Larry Elder.
Fox News’ Kellianne Jones and James Levinson contributed to this report
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