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Mike Pence struggles to find political home in Trump-dominated 2024 race

Former Vice President Mike Pence is a man without a home in the 2024 GOP presidential race, so much so that he is in jeopardy of not being invited to the party’s first debate next month in Milwaukee.

Alarm bells started going off after Mr. Pence raked in raised less than $1.2 million over the second fundraising quarter of the year. That’s a paltry sum considering the season political veteran helped former President Donald Trump win the White House in 2016 and served as his loyal sidekick for four years.

“The starting point should be who would even think that Pence has a chance in Trump’s party,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “He did start out the year with better than expected approval ratings, but once the indictments rolled in and the politics of grievance was brought back to the boil, Pence again became the pariah for most Republican voters that he was in the January 6 aftermath.”

Mr. Pence’s refusal to cower to Mr. Trump’s demand that he block the certification of state electoral votes on Jan. 6 won him applause from constitutional conservatives and legal scholars who agree with his take and celebrated his willingness to defend the nation’s founding document.

Mr. Pence hoped the stance would help him court traditional conservatives, anti-Trump Republicans and any disaffected Make America Great Again voters.

That plan has yet to come to fruition.

Indeed, most of the MAGA world has written him off as persona non grata.

Asked about Mr. Pence’s struggles, Steve Bannon, who served as chief strategist in the Trump White House, referred to him as “Judas Pence,” alluding to one of the 12 apostles that betrayed Jesus.

The anyone-but-Trump wing of the Republican Party has been more interested in Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and thinks Mr. Pence was too loyal at times to Mr. Trump.

“He has himself caught in the worst of both worlds, which is he doesn’t have the support of those loyal to Trump because Trump is running and the lack of trust related to what the vice president could or could not do on Jan. 6 in regards to certification,” said John Couvillon, founder of JMC Analytics & Polling.

“Among those running who are not in the Trump wing, well there are a lot of people campaigning for that same share of the vote,” he said. “So there really is no place for Vice President Pence to position himself.”

Mr. Pence is mired in the single digits in most polls.

The Republican National Committee is requiring debate participants to prove their viability by registering at least 1% support in three national polls or a mixture of state and national polls. Candidates also must have 40,000 unique donors, and at least 200 unique contributors from 20 or more states and territories.

Mr. Trump, who is the far-and-away frontrunner in the GOP race, will easily qualify but has said he might not attend the debate.

Mr. DeSantis, former United States ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy appear poised to participate.

Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota also said he has crossed the RNC thresholds after the billionaire gave donors $20 gift cards in exchange for donations to his campaign.

Mr. Pence is still on the outside looking in with former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former Rep. Will Hurd, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and conservative commentator Larry Elder, who also are struggling to qualify for the debate.

Mr. Pence said he remains confident he will hit the threshold of 40,000 donors needed to make it onto the debate stage on Aug. 23 in Milwaukee, a major test for his viability as a candidate.

“I’m very humbled by the support around the country, which is one of the criteria,” he said Sunday on CNN’s “State of The Union.” “But yes, having 40,000 individual donors, we’re literally working around the clock. Got about a month to go, I’m confident we will be there.”

The challenge facing Mr. Pence is a lot of GOP primary voters are less interested in his allegiance to the Constitution than his loyalty to Mr. Trump and his stolen election claims.

That was on full display at a campaign stop in Iowa this month when a woman in the crowd blamed Mr. Pence for putting President Biden in the White House.

“If it wasn’t for your vote, we would not have Joe Biden in the White House,” she said. “Joe Biden shouldn’t be there.”

Mr. Pence said the issue is “misunderstood,” that he kept his oath to the Constitution, and that Mr. Trump is wrong to insist he had the authority to alter the outcome of the election.

“The Constitution affords no authority for the vice president or anyone else to reject votes or return votes to the states. Never been done before. Should never be done in the future,” Mr. Pence said. “I’m sorry ma’am but that actually is what the Constitution says. No vice president in American history ever asserted the authority that you have been convinced that I had.”

“I promise you I am going to stand on what I did,” he said. “I am going to stand on the Constitution, and any job I have in the future, I promise you I will keep my oath even when it hurts.”

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