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Mike Pence Bows Out
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Mike Pence Bows Out

The former vice president urged American leadership in the world in his Republican primary valediction.

Former Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence wave onstage after he suspended his campaign for president during the Republican Jewish Coalition's Annual Leadership Summit on October 28, 2023, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Happy Monday! Mike Pence is out, and you know what that means—it’s time for Asa Hutchinson to catch a wave.

Up to Speed

  • Here’s an attention-grabbing new poll out of Iowa this morning: With Donald Trump maintaining his comfortable lead at 43 percent of likely caucus-goers, former ambassador and ex-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has pulled even with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the state at 16 percent apiece. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who has increasingly bent all his attention on Iowa, landed in a distant fourth at 7 percent. The poll, conducted by the Des Moines Register and NBC News, is considered the gold standard in Iowa polling.
  • The poll is good news for Haley but great news for Trump, who is the clear primary beneficiary from a contest with no obvious second-place challenger. Trump’s poll support is also the most locked in, with 63 percent of his backers attesting their minds are made up. And 41 percent of DeSantis supporters say their second choice is the former president, compared to only 27 percent of DeSantis supporters who say their second pick is Haley.
  • President Joe Biden has urged Israeli leaders to prioritize humanitarian aid into the Gaza strip as Israel continues to intensify its bombardment. The president has faced growing indignation from the left flank of his own party over his staunch support for Israel’s war to eradicate the terror group Hamas in Gaza.
  • The Trump campaign on Sunday released a list with the endorsements of 100 “Iowa faith leaders” from around the state. Some Iowa evangelicals have strongly criticized Trump in recent months since the former president began tacking leftward on abortion policy, including by criticizing the heartbeat bill signed this year by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as “a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.”
  • The House may have a speaker now, but bad blood keeps spilling out. House Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith slammed Rep. Matt Gaetz, saying the Florida congressman has “blood on his hands for 22 wasted days” in a Thursday radio interview. Rep. Patrick McHenry called former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ouster “perhaps the dumbest set of politics for decision-making a majority party in this institution could make.” 
  • Ohio voters will go to the polls next week to decide whether to establish a right to abortion access under the state Constitution. Although Ohio has become essentially a red state, abortion-access ballot measures in both red and blue states have strongly favored liberalization following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision last year that rescinded the constitutional right to abortion. In anticipation of this vote, Ohio Republicans tried to pass a measure on the summer ballot to raise the vote threshold for state constitutional amendments from 50 to 60 percent. They were unsuccessful.

Pence Bows to Reality in Another Blow to Reaganism

LAS VEGAS—Mike Pence pulled the plug on his presidential campaign this weekend with one final effort to convince fellow Republicans to reject the isolationists in their midst and recommit to supporting American leadership abroad.

“As war rages in Eastern Europe and Israel, and China continues its provocations in the Asia Pacific, a new populist movement in the Republican Party says that America should retreat from our leadership position, turn inward and focus solely on domestic concerns,” the former vice president said Saturday, just before shocking a gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition by announcing the suspension of his bid for the GOP nomination.

“I believe we’ve come to a Republican time for choosing,” Pence added. “Now more than ever, the American people, and the world, need the Republican party to stand tall for freedom.”

Pence chose a friendly crowd to deliver the news. The annual Republican Jewish Coalition conference at an upscale casino resort along the Las Vegas strip was dominated by concerns about rising antisemitism in the U.S. and the war in Israel fomented by Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack that targeted civilians for murder and torture and left more than 1,400 dead. Attendees heard from several prominent Republicans—presidential contenders and top congressional leaders—nearly all of whom promised robust U.S. financial and military support for Israel. 

There were few isolationists here. Republican Jewish Coalition members, including political activists and donors, are generally outspoken advocates for American global leadership, rendering Pence’s plea to “embrace a generation of leaders who will continue America’s commitment to leadership at home and abroad” redundant. But it was a fitting coda for the former vice president’s 2024 campaign. 

Pence spent four-plus months as a candidate attempting to turn Republican voters away from the “siren song of populism,” as he described it in his farewell speech, and back toward the traditional conservatism popularized in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan. Throughout, Pence seemed ill-suited to lead a party that since 2016 has shifted its gaze from the 40th president to the 45th—his old boss, Donald Trump. The former president is the frontrunner for the GOP nod; it’s not even close. 

“Pence didn’t fail because of his ideology; he failed because he was too Trumpy for Trump’s detractors and not Trumpy enough for Trump’s admirers,” says Brad Todd, a Republican strategist in Washington. “The future of the Republican movement is a fusion of conservatism and populism.”

Pence exits the Republican primary with 3.5 percent in the RealClearPolitics average of both national polls and surveys of voters in Iowa, whose January 15 caucuses the former vice president hoped would vault him into contention. His fundraising was anemic, and it was unclear that he would meet the polling and small-dollar donor thresholds for the next debate, scheduled for November 8 in Miami. Perhaps in the end, as Todd suggests, Pence was simply caught in a political no-man’s land.

Pence was always going to be persona non grata to Trump’s loyal voting base. After all, he refused the 45th president’s demands to ignore the Constitution and overturn the 2020 election during the joint session of Congress convened to certify Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Meanwhile, for Republican voters wishing to move on from Trump, Pence seemed equally unacceptable, a product of his unfailing fidelity to the former president, through myriad scandals, up until that moment on January 6, 2021.

It might just be that Pence was the wrong man for his time. Republican voters lately seem to have little appetite for the Midwestern congeniality and principled ideology of a politician who for years was fond of saying that he was conservative but “not angry about it.” Rather, Republicans have gravitated toward combative, populist culture warriors like Trump—and others—who better demonstrate their ability to deliver on GOP voters’ number-one priority: to fight.

Pence alluded to the mismatch in his final remarks to the Republican Jewish Coalition. “The Bible tells us, there’s a time for every purpose under heaven,” Pence said. “Traveling across the country over the past six months, I came here to say, it’s become clear to me, this is not my time.”

Notable and Quotable 

“If Trump’s not running, I would have to look to see what [the other candidates] stand for. Otherwise, it’s Trump all the way. He’s my hero. Him and Jesus are my heroes.” 

—Iowa Republican Dennis Canarsky, 73, to the Des Moines Register, October 30, 2023

Andrew Egger is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.