In an effort to tackle his campaign’s financial difficulties, former Vice President Mike Pence is resorting to a nearly forgotten strategy. According to The New York Times, Pence has officially applied for public financing for his presidential primary campaign, a step not taken by a Republican contender in over a decade.

If his application is approved, it would signify a notable shift in campaign finance dynamics, particularly for someone like Pence, who has previously operated at the highest levels of U.S. politics without relying on such measures. Since the post-Watergate reforms, presidential candidates have had the option to use federal funds for their campaigns, but this comes with strict spending limits. These limits have mostly discouraged modern candidates due to the high costs of running a competitive national campaign.

The public financing program, intended to reduce the impact of private wealth in elections, now seems like a relic from a past political finance era—a time when campaigns were smaller and less costly. For Pence, utilizing this program could be viewed as a financially prudent decision or, as some critics might suggest, a last resort due to a severe funding shortfall.

The New York Times reported:

Campaigning as an avatar of the G.O.P.’s old guard and warning that Mr. Trump’s populism was the “road to ruin,” Mr. Pence raised around $5.3 million last year, never found significant support in public polls and dropped out in late October when faced with the possibility of not qualifying for another debate.

Mr. Pence’s campaign committee had more than $1.3 million in unpaid debts as of the end of March, federal records show. Qualifying for public funds now would presumably help him pay down those bills.

A spokesman for Mr. Pence did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It was not clear why Mr. Pence’s request for public funds last fall had not yet been acted upon. On Tuesday, the Federal Election Commission posted an eligibility report from its audit division of the request, as well as a memorandum from its general counsel’s office about the matter. A discussion is on the agenda for a commission meeting on Thursday.

There are strict limits to qualify for the public-financing program, including raising $5,000 in at least 20 different states. The candidates themselves must not spend more than $50,000 of their own money.

Notably, Mr. Pence had initially seeded his campaign with $150,000 in July 2023. But he refunded $100,000 of that on Oct. 3, weeks before he dropped out, records show. That move could potentially make him eligible for public funds, but it also shows that he might have been considering exiting the race for weeks before he quit. The F.E.C. documents posted on Tuesday suggest he applied for public funds on Oct. 12.

Pence officially announced his presidential candidacy in June 2023, launching his campaign with a video titled “Best Days,” where he stressed the need for “different leadership” and outlined his vision for America’s future. However, he suspended his campaign in October after struggling to gain significant traction, especially against the dominant presence of his former running mate, Donald Trump, in the Republican primary.


Disclaimer: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.