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Pence raises less than $1.2 million, leaving questions about debate eligibility

Former vice president Mike Pence raised less than $1.2 million for his presidential campaign during the second quarter of this year, an aide said Friday, a figure that is a reflection of both the antipathy toward the former vice president among rank-and-file GOP voters and the deep skepticism among donors that he has a path to the Republican nomination.

Pence did not announce his presidential campaign until early June — and the second quarter fundraising reports only cover the period from April until the end of June, meaning his total covers a period of about three weeks. But the figure is notably small for someone who has held the position of vice president.

Though Pence’s campaign did not reveal how many donors contributed to his effort, the sum suggests that the former vice president could have a difficult time meeting the criteria set by the Republican National Committee for candidates to qualify for the first debate in Milwaukee in August. To demonstrate the breadth of their backing, the GOP hopefuls must prove they have 40,000 unique donors with at least 200 donors per state or territory in more than 20 states or territories.

Aides to former president Donald Trump, who is leading the GOP field for the nomination, and other top contenders like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis say they have already easily met that threshold. Pence’s campaign tally pales in comparison to the $35 million that Trump’s aides said the former president raised during the second quarter for his official campaign and his separate leadership PAC, Save America, which he has used to pay some of his legal bills.

When asked in Iowa on Friday about whether he’d qualify for the debate, Pence responded: “We’ll make the debate stage.” He also said that he would easily reach one of the RNC’s other criteria for the faceoff, which is notching at least 1 percent in certain polls.

DeSantis raised $20 million in the six weeks following the official announcement of his run for president, his campaign said last Thursday. Presidential campaigns must file their second quarter reports to the Federal Election Commission by Saturday; those filings are not yet available.

As much as Pence and his allies are pointing to the notion that he got a late start to his campaign, his second quarter figure is an indication that donors — who were well aware of his presidential ambitions for many months — did not rush to support him once he launched his bid.

The super PAC backing Pence, Committed to America, raised more than $2.6 million since its launch in mid-May. By comparison, Never Back Down, the super PAC backing DeSantis, has raised $130 million since launching. Much of that money is left over from DeSantis’s gubernatorial reelection effort. A Florida political committee that had been holding the extra funds transferred $82.5 million to Never Back Down in May.

Pence on Friday sought to project positivity, even has his total was much smaller than his major rivals. “I’ve been very humbled to see our support around the country growing since we announced here in Iowa just about a month ago,” Pence said, encouraging potential donors to give a dollar to his campaign. “We’re reaching out to people all across the country who share our vision, our conservative values.”

While Pence did not formally announce his campaign until early last month, he has been laying the groundwork for his effort since last year. After fueling anger among many of Trump’s supporters by refusing to overturn the 2020 election results, Pence defended his actions and directly confronted their disappointment during an extensive book tour last year for his memoir, “So Help Me God.”

In countless interviews during that period, he argued that he faithfully carried out his constitutional duties during the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol when Trump’s supporters attempted to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s victory by Congress. As he reintroduced himself to voters, Pence often said he was proud of the administration’s accomplishments while expressing disappointment and sorrow about Trump’s conduct following the election.

Announcing his presidential bid in June, he said he did not believe that Trump was qualified to be president because “anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States.” Alluding to the chants from some of Trump’s supporters calling for his hanging on Jan. 6, as well as the other threats to his security, Pence said Trump’s words that day “were reckless and endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol.”

But rank-and-file GOP voters so far have shown little appetite for Pence’s challenge to his former boss. Republican primary voters were roughly split on Pence in NBC News’ June poll: 33 percent viewed him positively while 37 percent said they viewed him negatively.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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