INDIANAPOLIS — Former Vice President Mike Pence announced Saturday that he is ending his campaign for the White House.
The former Indiana Governor is the first major Republican candidate to leave the race.
“We always knew this would be an uphill battle,” Pence told a crowd of supporters at an event in Las Vegas Saturday. “But I have no regrets.”
As Pence returns home to Indiana, political experts say his withdrawal follows several challenges on the campaign trail.
“Mike Pence had been struggling to really build upon his base,” University of Indianapolis Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Laura Wilson said. “He hadn’t been leading in the polls, and he was really trying to find himself, figure out what his lane was.”
According to the Associated Press, 57% of U.S. adults viewed Pence negatively, and only 28% had a positive view of him. Wilson said Saturday’s news could be disappointing to some Hoosier voters.
“For his supporters, this is going to be sad, quite frankly,” she said. “You know, it was (a) local guy running for the highest office in the land. But he was controversial, both when he was vice president and prior to that when he served as governor.”
Pence’s campaign ends just shy of three months before the Iowa Caucus. Wilson said this now narrows voters’ options, which she said could be beneficial.
“When you have so many candidates, it’s really hard to have enough supporters coalesce around one individual candidate,” Wilson said. “Mike Pence removing himself saying, ‘This is not my time to run for president,’ means there are fewer candidates. Voters have fewer options, and they can really try to find the candidate that they prefer.”
Though Pence has not officially endorsed another candidate, Wilson said that could be possible as the race tightens down the road.
“I actually think in this case, Mike Pence has a lot of latitude and the ability to kind of help lead voters that supported him to a candidate that he would support,” she said. “For voters that were Pence supporters, you still have several other candidates out there. I think you look at what your core values are, what was important to you in Mike Pence, and where do you see those reflected in the remaining candidates?”
Wilson said it is unlikely Pence supporters would immediately back former President Donald Trump due to their political division. If Trump gets the nomination, however, Wilson said that former Pence supporters could change their minds.
Pence did not immediately endorse any of his rivals today — though he continued to echo language he has used to criticize Trump.
Meanwhile, Trump did not acknowledge Pence’s announcement during his appearance at the same event in Las Vegas.