With Mike Pence out, who will benefit?

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at an event at the Zions Bank Building in Salt Lake City on April 28, 2023. Pence has dropped his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at an event at the Zions Bank Building in Salt Lake City on April 28, 2023. Pence has dropped his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
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This article was first published in the On the Trail 2024 newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox on Tuesday and Friday mornings here.

Good morning and welcome to On the Trail 2024, the Deseret News’ campaign newsletter. I’m Samuel Benson, Deseret’s national political correspondent.

Today, I’m looking at Mike Pence’s decision to drop out of the race and what that means for the rest of the field. Come back Friday for an exclusive interview with a 2024 presidential candidate.

Here’s the latest from the Deseret News’ 2024 election coverage:

The Big Idea

Down goes Pence

Mike Pence dropped out of the race Saturday, becoming the latest casualty of a Republican presidential primary controlled solely by Pence’s former boss, Donald Trump. Pence was gracious in defeat, telling attendees at the Republican Jewish Coalition summit in Las Vegas that “this is not my time.”

It was bound to happen. Ever since the former vice president announced his campaign in early June, he was met with a collective yawn. To Trump’s base, Pence was forever marked as the one who refused to overturn the 2020 election — which Pence repeatedly said he did not have any constitutional authority to do. To Never-Trumpers, it took Pence four years too long to finally stand up to Trump.

“Nobody Likes Mike Pence,” a headline in The Atlantic read in May, reporting a series of Republican voter focus groups that had a simple consensus: Pence was familiar to all and exciting to few.

It was only downhill from there. His highest mark in national polls came before he ever entered the race, and only slipped afterward, from 8% and 5%, down to 3%, and then the eventual concession. His was an impossible balance: slamming Trump on his election denialism and foreign policy, yet harping the successes of the “Trump-Pence administration” at every opportunity. He tried desperately to separate himself from Trump, but in order to win over any sliver of the party now dominated by the former president, he could only push so far.

In his campaign’s final days, Pence wandered through Iowa, stumping in pizza parlors and grocery stores, sometimes struggling to garner a dozen attendees. When he showed up to the E2 Summit in Park City earlier this month, alongside four other Republican presidential hopefuls, big-money donors at the closed-door event told me they were grateful for Pence’s service but saw his window as closed.

Why did Pence run in the first place? He’s long cited divine guidance for his political calculations, and it’s possible this was one. It’s also possible he wanted to clear the air about January 6 — that he was in the right and Trump in the wrong, a message he’s repeated over and over on the campaign trail.

What the rest of the field does now is anyone’s guess. Chris Christie, Doug Burgum and Asa Hutchinson have little chance at the nomination. Hutchinson’s campaign manager quit last week, reportedly convinced that the former Arkansas governor’s campaign was hopeless. Tim Scott’s campaign is losing air, too, amid calls for him to drop out and endorse Nikki Haley. Meanwhile, Haley and Ron DeSantis trade shots, and Trump maintains a dominant lead.

How long before the other candidates concede? Will Pence’s endorsement help Haley, DeSantis or another candidate make a jump in the polls? With 11 weeks until the Iowa caucuses, the chips have to start falling soon.

Poll pulse

In Iowa, the first state to vote in the GOP primary, a new poll shows Nikki Haley surging.

The poll, conducted by the Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa, shows Trump is still the favorite among Iowa Republicans:

  • Donald Trump: 43%

  • Nikki Haley: 16%

  • Ron DeSantis: 16%

  • Tim Scott: 7%

  • Vivek Ramaswamy: 4%

Compared to the results from two months ago, Haley shows the biggest jump, and it isn’t close. Haley was at 6% in August. By comparison, Trump increased by one percentage point and DeSantis fell by three points.

What I’m reading ...

Supporting Israel and fighting antisemitism took center stage at the Republican Jewish Coalition summit in Las Vegas over the weekend. All eight of the leading GOP presidential candidates showed up, offering their differing takes on the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. Our friends at the Indy have great coverage: GOP presidential hopefuls voice support for Israel, Pence drops out at Vegas summit (Gabby Birenbaum, Jacob Solis and Sean Golonka, The Nevada Independent)

Meanwhile, President Biden’s support for Israel has hurt his approval among some Democrats, including young voters and people of color. The backlash has led to Biden’s approval rating among Democrats reaching the lowest point of his presidency. “Perhaps most concerning for Mr. Biden,” the Times writes, “is that in the halls of Congress, the most critical Democratic voices are Black and Hispanic Democrats who helped fuel his 2020 victory.” Democrats Splinter Over Israel as the Young, Diverse Left Rages at Biden (Reid J. Epstein and Anjali Huynh, The New York Times)

Biden’s new challenger is attacking the president’s weakest spot: New Hampshire. After the DNC reshuffled the voting calendar to place South Carolina first, New Hampshire Democrats were left miffed. And then Biden didn’t register for the ballot in New Hampshire. And then Rep. Dean Phillips, his new Democratic challenger, launched his campaign from the Granite State, stirring up support from the party’s grassroots there. Will this come back to bite Biden? Will any of this matter? Joe Biden’s Big New Hampshire Blunder (Jonathan Martin, Politico magazine)

What to watch

A Colorado lawsuit seeking to bar Trump from the ballot went to trial Monday, the Denver Post reports. The argument hinges around the 14th Amendment, which cites “insurrection” as a disqualifying measure for any potential office-seeker. Similar lawsuits have been filed in Utah and several other states. Meanwhile, Trump faces charges in several criminal and civil cases across the country.

Any election-related questions for our Friday Mailbag? Send them my way — onthetrail@deseretnews.com.

See you on the trail.


Editor’s Note: The Deseret News is committed to covering issues of substance in the 2024 presidential race from its unique perspective and editorial values. Our team of political reporters will bring you in-depth coverage of the most relevant news and information to help you make an informed decision. Find our complete coverage of the election here.