Mike Pence Drops Out of Non-Race

The fourth place candidate for second place in the Republican primaries has taken his ball and gone home to Mother.

AP (“Pence ends White House campaign after struggling to gain traction. ‘This is not my time,’ he says“):

Former Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday dropped his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, ending his campaign for the White House after struggling to raise money and gain traction in the polls.

“It’s become clear to me: This is not my time,” Pence said at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual gathering in Las Vegas. “So after much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to suspend my campaign for president effective today.”

“We always knew this would be an uphill battle, but I have no regrets,” Pence went on to tell the friendly audience, which reacted with audible surprise to the announcement and gave him multiple standing ovations.

Pence is the first major candidate to leave a race that has been dominated by his former boss-turned-rival, Donald Trump, and his struggles underscore just how much Trump has transformed the party. A former vice president would typically be seen as a formidable challenger in any primary, but Pence has struggled to find a base of support.

He chose the Las Vegas event to announce his decision, in part, so he could continue to voice his support for Israel and to make his case one last time as a candidate that the isolationist and populist tides that have swept the Republican Party pose a danger to its future and embolden the nation’s enemies, according to two people close to Pence who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss his thinking.

Pence’s decision, more than two months before the Iowa caucuses that he had staked his campaign on, saves him from accumulating additional debt, as well as the embarrassment of potentially failing to qualify for the third Republican primary debate, on Nov. 8 in Miami.

But his withdrawal is a huge blow for a politician who spent years biding his time as Trump’s most loyal lieutenant, only to be scapegoated during their final days in office when Trump became convinced that Pence somehow had the power to overturn the results of the 2020 election and keep both men in office — which he did not.

While Pence averted a constitutional crisis by rejecting the scheme, he drew Trump’s fury, as well as the wrath of many of Trump’s supporters, who still believed his lies about the election and see Pence as a traitor.

Among Trump critics, meanwhile, Pence was seen as an enabler who defended the former president at every turn and refused to criticize even Trump’s most indefensible actions.

While the vice presidency has typically been thought of as a path to the top job—with the incumbent President the latest example—the last Republican VP to even get the nomination was George H.W. Bush in 1988. His veep, Dan Quayle, mounted a bid for the 2000 nomination but dropped out well ahead of the primaries. If Dick Cheney harbored any presidential ambitions of his own, he didn’t act on them.

Regardless the last two paragraphs in the excerpt above tell the story: he’s seen as a traitor by the Trumpers and a Trumper by the non-Trumpers. That would be an impossible situation even if Trump weren’t in the race.

But, of course, he is. And, as a result, it’s not actually a race at all. For the first time in the primary era, both major parties essentially have an incumbent President, making the campaign for the nomination pro forma. As a reminder, here’s the current RealClearPolitics polling aggregate:

Pretending that this is a race is silly.

FILED UNDER: 2024 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    Just a Luddite’s opinion, but I never saw his “run” as anything more than an ego stroke, not a serious effort. What a sad, quiet ending to his quest to be, well, “someone.”

  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    A piece at emptywheel, offers the opinion that Pence dropping out undercuts trump’s arguments in the gag order dispute.


    He should endorse one of the remaining candidates.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    A nit to pick:

    both major parties essentially have an incumbent President,

    Oxford disagrees: (of an official or regime) currently holding office.

    So one party has an incumbent president running, the other has an ex president running.

    @Sleeping Dog: I don’t know about that, but I’ll bet he could make bank offering his endorsement and the remaining candidates paying him to shut up.

  4. Franklin says:

    Just came here to applaud Dr Joyner’s wicked sub-heading. Ouch!

  5. steve says:

    I think it was the SNL folks who said God had to talk with him. “Dude, you are embarrassing both of us. Drop out!”


  6. CSK says:

    Charlie Sykes says on MSNBC that Mike Johnson isn’t a run-of-the-mill Trump today. There’s a link to the MSNBC piece in the article below:


  7. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Hence the “essentially.”

  8. Pence very cynically agreed to be Trump’s running mate and be his magic Christian as a hail mary to revive his political career. It was always a fool’s choice.

    He will be in the history books, so there’s that.

  9. wr says:

    So does this mean that Mike Pence is not actually able to hear the word of God and that when he heard Baby Jesus saying he should be president he was wrong or delusional? Or does it mean that Baby Jesus did want him to run and then fucked him over? Or that Baby Jesus was playing a big prank on him all along?

    I’d love to know Pence’s theological explanation for what has happened.

  10. CSK says:


    “Toady,” not “today.”

  11. Flat Earth Luddite says:


    Autocorrect is painful, innit?

    In my world, it’s always discovered immediately following “send”

  12. Erik says:

    @wr: I asked a deeply Christian family member this and she said “He’s not president YET. All things in God’s time. Trust in the Lord.” There’s always a way to make prophesy fit

  13. DrDaveT says:


    I’d love to know Pence’s theological explanation for what has happened.

    I’m pretty sure he’d go all Abraham-and-Isaac or Book of Job on it and claim that it was a deliberate test of his faith, and he passed with flying colors. Narcissism comes in many flavors.

  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Sleeping Dog: He who? Pence? Who, among Republicans, is going to give a flying f### about what a RINO traitor thinks about who should be President?

    (Although, extending from that thought, an argument might be made for Pence endorsing DeSantis for the guilt by association factor of it.)

  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Guess it’s gonna be really important for Democrats to show up for the election then, eh?

  16. al Ameda says:

    Mike Pence is incredibly uncharismatic and unctuous, but that isn’t what got Mike to this point. His failure to sell out the country when he declined to implement the Johnson Plan to send this back to the states was his end.

    Mike Pence and Mike Johnson are very similar in their uber-piousness, but …. we now know that a Vice President Mike Johnson would have carried out the plan (his plan?) to decline certification of the election.

  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @wr: I checked with Bing on this point, and Bing claims that while Pence believed that God (or Baby Jesus, if you prefer) wanted him to be President, he never directly claimed that God had called him to run (in whatever manner callings from God happen). I would love for Bing to be wrong about this given that Microsquash’s new AI-to-words thingie is what powers Bing’s answers, but until then, I’ll just attribute Pence’s proclamation to the standard blurring of “what God wants” with “what I want.” I’ve also known many others as well as having experienced myself finding that “callings from God” came exclusively as the voices of mothers.

  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Believe it or not, I’ve become so totally out of practice at deliberately misunderstanding what students intended to say rather than what they wrote that I actually read the “today” in your post as “toady,” auto-correct notwithstanding.

  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DrDaveT: It takes more character than most of us have to simply admit that we mistook our own desires for God’s. Pat Robertson made a whole late-life career out of similar mistakes, so sometimes it works out. The fact that it worked out only makes post hoc argument.

  20. Mister Bluster says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:..I’ve also known many others as well as having experienced myself finding that “callings from God” came exclusively as the voices of mothers.

    With my mother it was schizophrenia that convinced her that the voice that she heard was god telling her all kinds of truly crazy shit.
    Now that does not mean that I think that anyone who claims that “god speaks to me” suffers from this dispicable disease.
    But how can I be sure?

  21. Kathy says:

    So, one fine day during the Republiqan debates for 2028, one candidate says “God called me to run for president.”

    Another candidate replies “That’s not true. God called me to run for president.”

    Former speaker Johnson then comments, “Sorry, gentlemen,” he says deadpan. “I don’t recall calling on either of you.”

  22. gVOR10 says:

    And another anti-Trump, one time, GOP bites the dust. This sends a message to the rest of them.

  23. wr says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: ” I’ll just attribute Pence’s proclamation to the standard blurring of “what God wants” with “what I want.””

    Or as Peter O’Toole says in The Ruling Class, “When did I realize I was God? Well, I was praying and suddenly realized I was talking to myself.”

  24. gVOR10 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It (Pence’s choice to sign on with Trump) was always a fool’s choice.

    What other career option did he have? A law firm, lobbying, or the Government department at IU? VP, under any circumstances, had to look good.