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Mike Pence Faces Make-Or-Break Moment In Brief Presidential Campaign

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Former Vice President Mike Pence had high hopes when he decided earlier this summer to formally challenge his old boss, Donald Trump, for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

But now, just a few short months later, his campaign already appears to be facing a critical moment. With the first GOP candidate debate, hosted by Fox News in Milwaukee, Wis., roughly three weeks away, Pence has yet to qualify for it, Newsweek reported on Tuesday.

Although Pence has met the polling requirements to participate in the debates with approximately 4 percent support nationally, as per data compiled by FiveThirtyEight, he has yet to fulfill the requirement set by the Republican National Committee. The RNC requirement mandates 40,000 unique donors to his campaign since launching in early June, with at least 200 donors from 20 different states.

While some other candidates, such as North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, biopharma executive Vivek Ramaswamy, and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, have attempted to get closer to the debate stage by providing incentives to donors, like $20 gift cards and sweepstakes for a free year of college tuition, Pence has chosen not to follow the same approach.

He stated to the news website Semafor over the weekend that he would not resort to what he referred to as “gimmicks” to amplify his platform and make his voice heard, according to Newsweek.

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“Yeah, we’re not doing kickbacks. We’re not doing gift cards. We’re not even giving out soccer tickets,” he told Semafor. “We’re just asking people for support, and it’s rolling in.”

But it’s not coming in fast enough. According to Pence himself, his campaign is not progressing rapidly enough to fulfill the current donor requirement before meeting the criteria for the RNC’s second debate, the specifics of which have not been disclosed to the public yet.

“I’m confident that we’ll meet the qualifications,” he told Semafor. “With the pace we’re going, I actually think we may meet the threshold to qualify for the second debate before we arrive at the first one.

“But, you know, I’m someone that just believes in going out and telling your story, and people around the country have been stepping up. I also recognize that other candidates had significantly more time than we’ve had. We announced on June 7, but we’re confident we’ll be there,” he added.

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However, according to Newsweek:

Currently, available numbers suggest otherwise. According to campaign finance reports made public earlier this month, Pence’s campaign raised a paltry $1.2 million nationwide from individual donors during the second quarter of 2023, a number lower than that raised by longshot candidates like Burgum, Ramaswamy, and Donald Trump critic Chris Christie during the same period.

However, speaking to reporters over the weekend, Pence predicted the campaign was “maybe a couple of weeks away, based on the pace of things,” from reaching the threshold of 40,000 unique donors he needed to qualify for the debate stage.

In polls, Pence has struggled to gain momentum, even in evangelical strongholds like Iowa. This may be attributed to his public reluctance to criticize his former president, a foreign policy stance on Ukraine aid that is not aligned with a significant portion of Republican voters and a platform centered around supporting a nationwide abortion ban—a policy that has garnered limited support from voters outside the Republican base.

Last month, reports noted that, contrary to what he has said in recent days, Pence’s fundraising efforts were collapsing.

“Pence’s campaign and super political action committee (PAC) raised $3.85 million in the second quarter of this year, casting doubt on his debate eligibility,” The Daily Caller reported on Saturday.

According to a Pence advisor who spoke to Politico on Friday, $1.1 million was raised through his campaign directly, while an additional $2.6 million was generated via his super PAC. Pence declared his candidacy on June 7.

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