Republican Mike Pence drops out of US presidential race

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Former US vice president Mike Pence dropped out of the 2024 presidential race on Saturday, saying it was not “my time”, and underlining his scandal-embroiled previous boss Donald Trump’s total dominance of the Republican Party.

The timing was a surprise.

Pence got a warm reception when he stepped up to speak at the annual meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, only to cause a shock by using the occasion to become the first major 2024 candidate to suspend his campaign.

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“It’s become clear to me: this is not my time,” Pence said. “After much prayer and consideration, I have decided to suspend my campaign for president.”

The setting, perhaps, was unexpected. But the eventual demise of Pence’s bid to be chosen to take on President Joe Biden next year had only seemed a matter of time.

For four years, he stood out for unquestioning loyalty to Trump, even as the White House lurched through impeachment, ethics scandals, and a dizzying rate of turnover among senior staff.

But when Trump pressured Pence to go one step further, helping to overturn the legitimate win by Biden in the 2020 election, the long-submissive deputy stood firm.

That defiance, which saw enraged pro-Trump supporters chanting “hang Mike Pence” as they stormed the Capitol to stop certification of the election on January 6, 2021, immediately made the devout Christian a pariah to the far-right.

With Trump bouncing back from what many thought would have been a career-ending episode, then seemingly brushing off a series of criminal indictments in his post-presidential life, Pence’s hopes of building a new career of his own were doomed.

Despite national name recognition and years of experience in Washington, his campaign was anemic. Had he not dropped out Saturday, he faced the humiliation of not being invited to join a primary candidates’ debate in Miami on November 8 due to lack of support in the polls.

The departure of Pence leaves the field a little clearer for Trump’s main rival, Ron DeSantis, the right-wing governor of Florida, although he too is seen as having little chance of overcoming the Trump juggernaut.

Shortly after Pence’s announcement, DeSantis posted on social media site X that the former vice president was “a principled man of faith who has worked tirelessly to advance the conservative cause.”

The Democratic National Committee, however, said Pence would not be missed in an election between Biden and Trump’s hard-right Make America Great Again, or MAGA, movement.

“Mike Pence is just the latest MAGA presidential hopeful to face the consequences of running on a deeply unpopular and extreme agenda focused on stripping away Americans’ freedoms,” a DNC spokeswoman said.

“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. Good riddance.”

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