On October 28, 2023, former Vice President Mike Pence announced the suspension of his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. This decision comes after facing challenges in raising funds and gaining traction in the polls. Pence, who spent years as Donald Trump’s loyal lieutenant, finds himself withdrawing from the race, with his former boss dominating the political landscape. While saving himself from the embarrassment of failing to qualify for the third Republican primary debate, this withdrawal marks a significant blow to Pence’s political ambitions.
A Loyal Lieutenant, Scapegoat, and Enabler
Pence’s withdrawal from the race bears the burden of the tumultuous and divisive political climate that enveloped the Trump administration’s final days. As Trump wrongly believed Pence had the power to overturn the results of the 2020 election, tensions grew between the two and Pence faced scapegoating. Despite rejecting Trump’s scheme and averting a constitutional crisis, his loyalty did not shield him from drawing Trump’s fury or from the wrath of Trump’s supporters who view him as a traitor.
While Pence gained support among Trump’s critics, who saw him as an enabler for Trump’s actions, his reputation suffered overall. According to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll from August, a majority of U.S. adults viewed Pence negatively, with only 28% having a positive view of him. This polarization reflects the deep divisions in American politics and the challenges faced by politicians who align themselves closely with divisive figures.
The Iowa Strategy and its Pitfalls
Pence focused on Iowa as a critical battleground, relying on its large white Evangelical population and history of supporting socially conservative candidates. He campaigned alongside his wife, emphasizing his hard-line views on issues such as abortion. However, despite his efforts, Pence struggled to gain traction in Iowa and failed to connect with voters. Even with years of connections, he faced challenges in fundraising, ending September with minimal funds remaining in his campaign.
Implications for Pence’s Future
Pence’s decision to suspend his campaign raises questions about his future in the Republican Party and the conservative movement. While some believed that the recent Middle East crisis gave him renewed purpose, highlighting his warnings against isolationism, his withdrawal hints at a potential diminishment of his long-term standing in the party. Trump’s dominance in the race for the 2024 nomination poses a significant challenge for Pence, who may need to consider alternative ways to remain a leading voice in the conservative movement.
Despite leaving the race, Pence intends to stay engaged in political matters through Advancing American Freedom, the conservative think tank he founded after leaving the vice presidency. The think tank aims to serve as an alternative to The Heritage Foundation, advocating for policies that Pence supported during his campaign. However, it remains to be seen how Pence’s policy positions align with the shifting landscape of the Republican Party, which has embraced Trump’s isolationist and populist shifts.
Former Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to suspend his presidential campaign reflects the challenges he faced in fundraising and attracting support. The polarization caused by the divisive end of the Trump administration, combined with his close association with Trump, has affected Pence’s reputation and popularity. This withdrawal raises important questions about Pence’s future in the Republican Party and the conservative movement. As he navigates his next steps, Pence will need to carefully consider how to retain his influence and relevance in a political landscape dominated by his former boss.
<< photo by Romina Ordóñez >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.
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