A Reality Check for a Former VP

Photo by John Locher/AP

After months of campaigning for the GOP presidential nomination, Former Vice President Mike Pence has thrown in the towel. He announced on Saturday, October 29th that he would be dropping out of the presidential race. 

Pence explained the move during an event with some of his biggest donors:  “It’s become clear to me that this is not my time,’ […] promising to ‘never leave the fight for conservative values.’” During his speech, Pence urged the crowd to restore more traditional conservative principles, insisting they counter the “siren song of populism.” 

Pence’s withdrawal from the race came after five months of trailing in the race after announcing his candidacy in June of 2023. Shortly before recusing himself from the battle for the nomination, it was revealed that Pence’s campaign had accrued over $600,000 of debt and was spending as much as they brought in, in spite of massive fundraising efforts.

One of the largest problems for the Pence campaign was the sheer number of candidates vying for the GOP nomination. The front-runners include former President Donald Trump; Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida; Nikki Haley, former UN Ambassador; Vivek Ramasswamy, a self-reported entrepreneur; Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey; and Tim Scott, a senator from South Carolina. 

This overly saturated field left no place for Pence to stand out. The sheer number of politicians running likely made it confusing and difficult for voters to differentiate between the candidates. After watching the first two of the three debates between the Republican Party, it was glaringly obvious that there was a cat fight for screen time, and Pence wasn’t able to get his share of attention. 

Moreover, Pence frankly didn’t stand a chance against his former running mate, Donald Trump. Throughout his time in the race, Pence did not back down from getting in a few jabs at the former president. The former vice president made this clear even when announcing his running back in June, saying that “President Trump’s reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol […] President Trump also demanded I choose between him and our Constitution. Now voters will be faced with the same choice. I chose the Constitution, and I always will.”

Pence’s campaign seemed to be doomed from the start because of his refusal to support Trump in the January 6th insurrection at the capitol. After he verified the election of President Joe Biden, those who supported Pence because of his association with Trump abandoned their loyalty right then and there, fashioning him as a traitor and shouted violent phrases such as “‘Hang Mike Pence’” as they stormed the capital. 

Clearly, these are not the people to forgive and forget—they would be extremely hesitant to support Pence in his presidential bid.

But now that Pence is one other candidate that the others still in the fight no longer have to worry about, they were quick to back the former VP at the same event at which he publicized his withdrawal from the race. Pence received encouragement from many GOP candidates, including Ron DeSatnis, Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, Tim Scott, Doug Burgum, and Asa Hutchinson, with many referring to Pence as a “man of faith” and highlighting his fervent Christianity.

While it is likely that these candidates were making an attempt to scoop up Pence’s donors and supporters, Trump took an entirely different route in his reaction to the news. At a rally in Las Vegas on the same night Pence withdrew from the race, Trump told the crowd, “‘I chose him, made him vice president, but people in politics can be very disloyal,’ Mr. Trump told the crowd, as several people in the audience shouted, referring to Mr. Pence, ‘Traitor! Traitor!’ Mr. Trump laughed, saying: ‘He could have done what he could have done, right?’” The former president obviously had no intention of appealing to Pence supporters.

Despite Mike Pence’s best efforts, he failed to achieve enough momentum in order to win the nomination for president. While his defeat cannot be solely attributed to his own actions, there is no doubt that he played a role in his own downfall through his inability to achieve the attention of voters and donors alike through debates and the media.  

This article was edited by Hannah Pearce