Las Vegas — Former US vice-president Mike Pence ended his cash-strapped presidential campaign on Saturday, after struggling for months to convince Republican voters he was the best alternative to the man he once served with unswerving loyalty, Donald Trump.
Pence’s surprise announcement at the Republican Jewish Coalition donor conference in Las Vegas made him the first big-name candidate to drop out. Trump is the runaway front-runner in the race.
“Travelling over the country over the past six months, 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 for president effective today,” Pence told the audience to gasps and, later, prolonged claps and cheers of support.
Pence stopped short of endorsing anyone in his speech but seemed to swipe at his former boss.
“I urge all my fellow Republicans here, give our country a Republican standard bearer that will, as Lincoln said, appeal to the better angels of our nature,” Pence said, adding it should also be someone who leads the country with “civility”.
A source close to Pence laughed when asked whether he would endorse Trump. At a rally later on Saturday, Trump said Pence should endorse him because he had a “great, successful presidency ... I chose him, made him vice- president”.
But, Trump added, “people in politics can be very disloyal”.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis and Trump did not mention Pence in their speeches at the donor conference. Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who was Trump’s ambassador to the UN, praised Pence as a fighter for America and Israel.
DeSantis later posted on social media platform X that Pence was a “principled man of faith”.
More candidates might soon follow Pence in dropping out, consolidating the wide field of contenders. With more than a half-dozen candidates, donors seeking alternatives to Trump have been reticent to open their pocketbooks.
Trump’s lead is so large it may not matter, however.
He has built one of the biggest primary leads in US electoral history, according to opinion polls. They show most Republican voters have embraced, or do not care about, Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him and his efforts to overturn the result.
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