Inside Mike Pence’s Sad, Declining Presidential Campaign

It annoys him to see rivals like Haley and high-profile players like Ramasamy beat him in early state elections. One of Pence’s advisers confided in me that they believed Fox News was not as favorable to Pence as the network was to Hawley and Ramasamy.

Here in Iowa, however, Pence and his campaign aren’t promising voters a good harvest like a farmer planting across a barren field. Or as his senior adviser Chip Saltzman puts it, barbecuing is the best metaphor: “Low and slow” is the way to win Iowa, peaking at the right time. (Saltzman guided former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Rick Santorum to caucus victories here in 2008 and 2012.) He told me this while flipping penz ribeye sandwiches on a street near Mount Ayr. “We’re going to need more buns,” I heard Pence say.

After he finished at the grill, Pence entered a one-seat barbershop called Dick’s, where Fox News was playing on a small monitor, and Dick steered the chair. Pence suddenly fell down for a haircut.

Nearby, Karen Pence looked nervous. “Don’t take it too lightly,” she advised.

“He’s a voter in Iowa,” Pence replied to his wife, “and he can do no wrong.”

“Wonderfully nice guy,” the barber, Dick Simpson, 80, told me about Pence when I called him a few weeks later. Did Benz beat him? Yes, Dick said, still showing photos he took with the former VP. But he was not sure if he would be able to leave the shop.

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Dedicated to America, Pence’s ally super PAC, said in a memo to donors in late September that it had knocked on 500,000 doors across the state and collected data from 50,000 people. (In 2016, only 186,874 people voted in the last contested Republican caucus.) “Every day counts at this point,” wrote Bobby Sabaro, executive director of the PAC, who was the campaign manager of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s 2022 re-election bid. “This species must be shaken, and soon.”

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