Goodbye Mike Pence. Others Need to Go.
Mike Pence became the latest casualty of the Republican primary over the weekend. The former vice president suspended his presidential campaign on Saturday, saying, “After much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to suspend my campaign for president effective today.”
Good. Mike Pence needed to drop out because he had no path forward.
Realistically, Pence never had a path to the presidency. Pence’s stars became crossed the moment he signed on with Donald Trump in 2016.
Of course, the flip side is that Trump’s offer to add Pence to the ticket was a way to distinguish himself from other capable but not outstanding Republican governors. Pence made a gamble – or a deal with the devil – that he would backstop Trump and then, as the vice presidential nominee, would become the heir apparent when Trump flamed out and went down in defeat.
But Trump didn’t go down in defeat. As we all remember, Trump won a fluke victory and became president. Pence had to deal with the devil for the next four years and beyond.
There wasn’t much that Mike Pence found objectionable in the Trump Administration. For all the problems and foibles, the one thing that Mike Pence seemed to consider a bridge too far was when Trump asked him to throw out the Electoral College results.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that Pence made the right choice, but it took four years of bad choices to get to the right one.
Pence’s choice ended any chance he ever had of becoming president. A large part of the country either didn’t like him or trust him before, and his decision on January 6 severed his ties with his friend Trump’s MAGA faction. Pence alienated both sides of the country and has no constituency. His evangelical voters have gone to Donald Trump.
And through it all, Pence has been very hesitant to speak ill of Donald Trump. I personally thought a better title for his memoir would have been “Misplaced Loyalties.”
But now Mike Pence has made another good decision, his second in eight years. In Republican primary polling, Pence never gained traction and was hovering at about three percent. He was polling worse than Vivek Ramaswamy. If you wonder why, back up two paragraphs.
Pence did the right thing and others need to follow his example. The Republican candidates need to learn from the Democrats.
Back in 2020, the Democratic primary looked a lot like this year’s Republican field. There were a handful of candidates splitting the polling and Bernie Sanders looked like the eventual nominee. The Democratic candidates took one for the team and in the space of a few days in March, almost everyone dropped out and endorsed Joe Biden.
If Republicans don’t want Donald Trump as a nominee, this is what they need to do. Of course, it may already be too late. Trump is polling at more than 50 percent in national polls as well as being the heavy favorite in Iowa and New Hampshire. If every candidate but one dropped out, Trump would still hold the lead.
But a two-way fight might be more winnable than an eight-way race. As it is, the candidates who bother to show up at debates spend more time attacking each other than the presumptive nominee. I have to believe that most of them are interested in running in 2028 or for a position in a second Trump Administration than the 2024 presidential nomination.
That might change in a two-way race.
The big question is who stays. In the 2020 Democratic primary, Joe Biden was the obvious consensus choice. No such consensus exists now.
It’s easy enough to toss out everyone except Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley. DeSantis has been a consistent second place but Haley is giving him a run for his money.
For my money, Haley should be the one to stay in.
DeSantis has had his chance. Over the winter and spring, the Florida governor had every advantage, including massive fundraising support and cheerleading from just about every anti-anti-Trump politician and pundit. He couldn’t capitalize on it. DeSantis’s strategy of taking on Trump from the right proved to be a major miscalculation, and he probably can’t recover from it.
Haley is more of a scrapper. She has seen a surge in the polls since the debates and has shown more fighting spirit than DeSantis. If anyone can take out Trump – and I’m not sure that anyone can in the Republican primary – it’s probably Haley.
There are two big problems with the unite-around-Haley strategy. One is that most of the candidates don’t have what it takes to quit for the good of their party and their country. It’s probably only Haley who shares my assessment that she’s the GOP’s only chance. The bigger problem is that more than half of Republicans aren’t interested in anyone but Trump.
It’s going to take another MAGA drubbing to convince Republicans that Trumpism is a dead end. Maybe after 2024, the party will be ready to move on…if it doesn’t decide on a civil war instead.