Former Vice President Mike Pence suspends campaign for president

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(LAS VEGAS) — Former Vice President Mike Pence has suspended his campaign for president, he announced Saturday.

“I came here to say it’s become clear to me, this is not my time. So after much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to suspend my campaign right now,” Pence said on stage at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s Annual Leadership Summit in Las Vegas, prompting audible gasps from the audience.

“I’m leaving this campaign, but let me promise you I will never leave the fight for conservative values and I will never stop fighting to elect principled, Republican leaders to every office in the land,” he continued.

The announcement was unexpected as Pence said just last week he was working to qualify to make the next debate stage.

Pence, 64, announced he was joining the Republican race for president in June, running against his former running mate, former President Donald Trump.

On the trail, he leaned into what he viewed as policy wins for the Trump administration while trying to distance himself from Trump’s controversial leadership style, often calling for politicians, instead, “to restore a threshold of civility in public life.”

Pence’s support for military aid to Ukraine set him apart from other Republican candidates. He also pushed the primary field to commit to a minimum 15-week abortion ban at the federal level and called for entitlement reforms, conservative issues he accused his “former running mate and his imitators” or “walking away from.”

But Pence struggled to win over voters fiercely loyal to Trump, unable to rise in the poll beyond the single digits despite a packed summer in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

Pence said Saturday he has no regrets about his bid for president.

“The only thing that would have been harder than coming up short would have been if we’d never tried at all,” he said. “To the American people I say this is not my time. But it’s still your time.”

Subtle changes since fundraising dropped

Since Pence reported his third quarter fundraising numbers earlier this month, the campaign’s operations significantly tailored down. At least two campaign staffers were let go earlier this month. It’s been more than two weeks since an appearance of his was advised to press.

When asked how close he is to qualifying to the next debate, Pence offered a preemptive defense to reporters after filing for New Hampshire’s primary.

“I hope to be on that debate stage another time, but we’re gonna tell our story. We’re going to work hard, and we’ll keep you posted,” he told reporters, in a change from previous debates when he’d say he’d be there.

Pence pinned the fact that he didn’t file for the GOP-run caucus in Nevada — opting instead for the state-run primary, which comes with no delegates — on the filing fee.

“It may be obvious in the days ahead that other campaigns have more money than ours,” Pence said. “But it’s not about money. It’s about votes. … We probably have to be a little bit more selective in where we invest resources and that was the basis of that.”

Some say it wouldn’t have mattered if Pence had more money — it just wasn’t his time.

“If Mike Pence had $200 million dollars, it wouldn’t change the numbers,” said Barry Bennett, Ben Carson’s former campaign manager and a one-time Trump adviser. “I don’t think it’s necessarily a funding issue. … It’s not really the model. It’s more the message not being right for the time.”

Won’t rule out supporting Trump

Pence has been asked dozens of times how he squares pledging to support the Republican nominee while also saying no one who puts themselves above the Constitution should ever be president.

Speaking in platitudes, he counts on voters to draw the conclusion themselves.

“I urge all my fellow Republicans here, to give our country a Republican standard bearer that will, as Lincoln said, appeal to the better angels of our nature,” Pence said Saturday. “And not only leads to victory, but lead our nation with civility to those that have always made America strong and prosperous and free.”

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