Mike Pence drops out of 2024 presidential race: 'This is not my time'

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WASHINGTON - Former Vice President Mike Pence dropped out of the 2024 Republican presidential race on Saturday, saying the past six months have shown him that his bid is not likely to succeed.

"It’s become clear to me, this is not my time,” Pence said in closing a pro-Israel speech at a Republican Jewish Coalition forum in Las Vegas.

Pence, who was Donald Trump's vice president, struggled with fundraising and in polls throughout his campaign. He would have had trouble qualifying for the third Republican debate on Nov. 8 in Miami.

As supporters cheered, Pence told the Las Vegas forum that while he is leaving the presidential race, "I will never leave the fight for conservative values."

Pence did not, however, endorse any of the remaining presidential candidates.

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, in Las Vegas. Pence is dropping his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, ending his campaign for the White House. He said in Las Vegas that "after much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to suspend my campaign for president effective today."

Pence, Trump and Jan. 6

A former congressman and governor of Indiana, Pence may be back in the news in 2024. He may be called as a witness in the federal trial of Trump on charges that he tried to steal the 2020 election from President Joe Biden.

In the highest-profile moment of his political career, Pence refused Trump's demand that he, in his capacity as president of the Senate, throw out electoral votes that elected Biden. Pence said he lacked the legal right to essentially hand the election to Trump.

That decision preceded the pro-Trump insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021. It also drew continuous criticism of Pence by Trump and his allies, both before and during the vice president's brief presidential campaign.

Pence testified before a Jan. 6 grand jury in April.

Trump told supporters in Las Vegas late Saturday that Pence should endorse him because “I made him vice president.” The former president added that he doubted he would get Pence’s supportbecause “people in politics are very disloyal.”

Endorsement: Other candidates praise Pence

Some of the remaining candidates quickly praised Pence, perhaps hoping he will endorse them.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, also speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition, said the vice president has long fought for Israel, for Republicans, and for Americans in general.

"We all owe him a debt of gratitude," Haley said.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott said on the social media site X, formerly Twitter, that Pence has been “a prayer partner, a friend, and a man of integrity and deep conviction.”

“The Republican Party is stronger today” because of Pence’s leadership, Scott said. “I have no doubt Mike and Karen will continue to serve this nation and honor the Lord in all they do."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called Pence "a principled man of faith who has worked tirelessly to advance the conservative cause."

"Casey and I appreciate Mike and Karen for their willingness to put themselves forward in this campaign and wish the Pence family well in their next steps," DeSantis said on X, formerly Twitter.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie praised Pence’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021: “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.”

The Democratic National Committee said Pence's biggest problem was the Trump Republican agenda.

"Pence set the tone for the Republican primary, ensuring Republican candidates lined up behind an extreme agenda of banning abortion nationwide, slashing Social Security and Medicare, and campaigning for election deniers," said DNC spokesperson Sarafina Chitika. "Good riddance.”

No traction against Trump

Mike Pence
Mike Pence

Pence ended his longshot bid for the GOP presidential nomination after being unable to gain traction in a party that has been transformed by the person he helped elect in 2016: Trump.

The first former vice president in modern times to run against the president under whom he served, Pence had been unfailingly loyal to Trump until the president pushed him to block Congress’ certification of their electoral loss.

During the campaign, Pence said Trump disqualified himself for a second shot at the White House by asking him to ignore the Constitution.

Trump responded by calling Pence disloyal. Other Republicans opposed to Trump, however, declined to get behind Pence's 2024 candidacy, pointing to his previous subservience to Trump during the 2016 campaign and the presidency.

History also trended against Pence; of the last ten vice presidents, only two have been elected president: George H. W. Bush and Joe Biden.

Unable to catch Trump

So far, Pence and other challengers have been unable to make Trump's legal problems an issue against him. The former president is dominating the field while Pence has been polling in the single digits and had lackluster fundraising.

Still, running for president gave Pence the chance to be his own man after four years of bending himself to Trump’s will, and to tell his side of the story.

“I do think Mike Pence wanted to reclaim his own identity,” David Axelrod, who served as senior advisor to former President Barack Obama, said on a recent episode of the podcast “Hacks on Taps.”

Pence tried to re-introduce himself

Pence had argued he was well known but not known well – and sought to reintroduce himself to voters.

But what he is most known for – Jan. 6 – kept coming up on the campaign trail. He was both attacked for his defiance of Trump and praised for it, though those who praised him weren’t necessarily going to vote for him.

Pence’s bid was also a bit of an about face from 2016. As Trump’s running mate, Pence lauded Trump for creating a movement.

This year, Pence warned Republicans that Trump’s populism is a “road to ruin” for the party.

He urged Republicans to return to the tenets of the pre-Trump GOP, limited government, social conservatism and hawkish national security.

But his throwback to Ronald Reagan Republicanism was not a winning message.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mike Pence drops out of 2024 presidential race: 'This is not my time'