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Pence drops out of 2024 presidential race

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Today, former Vice President Mike Pence became the most high-profile Republican candidate yet to drop out of the race for the 2024 GOP nomination.

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MIKE PENCE: So after much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to suspend my campaign for president, effective today.

DETROW: Pence made the announcement today while speaking to members of the Republican Jewish Coalition at a leadership summit in Las Vegas. NPR's Sarah McCammon joins us now to talk about it. Hey, Sarah.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

DETROW: So what can you tell us about why Pence has decided to suspend his campaign?

MCCAMMON: Well, the short answer is he's just not getting much traction. And he acknowledged that today during his speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition. He quoted from the book of Ecclesiastes, which is part of both Jewish and Christian scripture.

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PENCE: But the Bible tells us that there's a time for every purpose under heaven. 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.

MCCAMMON: And, Scott, that's become clear because Pence has struggled in the polls and with donors. And, you know, in spite of having great name recognition with Republicans, he's seen by many in the Republican base as having turned on former President Trump.

DETROW: So why now? Why not wait a little bit longer and see what the actual voters have to say?

MCCAMMON: Well, the challenge for Pence and, of course, for others is that former President Trump continues to take up so much oxygen. And there's a big pool of candidates, and Pence is not even looking like a plausible second or third choice for most Republican voters at this point. The Iowa caucuses in mid-January had been seen as his best opportunity to get some momentum. You'll remember Pence was chosen, of course, by Trump as his running mate in 2016, largely because of his appeal to white evangelical voters - lots of those in Iowa. But Pence clearly doesn't see a path here. He is dropping out with still more than two months to go before that first nominating contest in Iowa.

DETROW: What was the pitch that Pence was trying to make over the past few months?

MCCAMMON: Well, he had a difficult needle to thread from the beginning. He was running on his credentials as a former vice president, but he was also, in a very real sense, running away from his relationship with his former boss, Donald Trump. Last month in New Hampshire, Pence delivered a speech warning about what he described as a dangerous populism on the rise in the Republican Party. And he echoed that during his speech today, too.

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PENCE: Now, 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, so help me God.

DETROW: So there's still this enormous gap between Donald Trump and the other candidates. Any sense what Pence's departure from the race means for the rest of the field?

MCCAMMON: Well, the field thinning out is probably good news for people like former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who's been seeing momentum in New Hampshire and doesn't have the same baggage among Republicans who are looking for an alternative to Donald Trump. Pence is, of course, the most notable candidate to drop out so far.

DETROW: We've got about 30 seconds left, but any read on the location of this announcement, the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas? What was interesting about that decision, that location?

MCCAMMON: Pence took the moment to reiterate his long-standing support for Israel, which, of course, is also the position of the Biden administration. That's a particularly central issue for many evangelicals and certainly would have resonated with this audience, Scott.

DETROW: That's NPR's Sarah McCammon. Thank you so much.

MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.