Beto O’Rourke has dropped out of the 2020 presidential race, ending a campaign in which he started as one of the most promising of all Democratic contenders only to drop in the low single digits in the polls.
“Our campaign has always been about seeing clearly, speaking honestly, and acting decisively,” O’Rourke said in a Twitter message. “In that spirit: I am announcing that my service to the country will not be as a candidate or as the nominee.”
He added: “We will work to ensure that the Democratic nominee is successful in defeating Donald Trump in 2020. I can tell you firsthand from having the chance to know the candidates, we will be well served by any one of them, and I’m going to be proud to support whoever she or he is.”
House Votes To Proceed On Donald Trump Impeachment Inquiry
His announcement came just as candidates are preparing to speak at the Liberty and Justice Dinner in Des Moines, a high-profile Iowa event that helped boost the candidacies of Barack Obama and John Kerry. O’Rourke was scheduled to speak.
While there has been speculation that O’Rourke would drop out and jump into the race for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas, he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer earlier this month that there was “no chance” he would do that.
Ever since the August 3 mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, O’Rourke highlighted gun-reform issues and called for a mandatory gun-buyback program. During the Democratic presidential debate in September, when asked about plans to reduce gun violence, he said, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.”
While his emphasis on gun reform gave him renewed attention in the sprawling field of candidates, Democrats have had concerns that it damaged any possible Senate chances because it put him at odds with a significant share of his home state’s electorate.
O’Rourke entered the race as a political celebrity, driven by his near defeat of Ted Cruz in last year’s Senate race in Texas.
After that ended, O’Rourke spent several months considering a presidential bid. He appeared in a conversation with Oprah Winfrey and at a South by Southwest screening of a campaign documentary. His announcement coincided with a Vanity Fair cover story, in which he said that he was “born to be in it,” and he hired one of Obama’s top campaign officials, Jen O’Malley Dillon, as campaign manager.
In his first 24 hours after his announcement, he raised more than $6 million. But as it turned out, that was a high mark.
In Hollywood, his implicit message of generational change was eclipsed by Pete Buttigieg. As O’Rourke focused on early state campaigning, Buttigieg seemed to be everywhere in media interviews, including The Ellen Show and TMZ. O’Rourke looked to activate his small-dollar donor network to propel his campaign, but Buttigieg made a number of trips to Los Angeles to court donors and line up top-name fundraisers.
By the time of the debates in June and July, O’Rourke had trouble scoring any kind of standout moments.
O’Rourke had yet to officially qualify for the next debate, on November 20, but pundits said that he had the best shot of making it among all of the candidates struggling to meet the polling and donor thresholds.
In the most recent quarter, O’Rourke raised $36,617 from industry sources, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, while Buttigieg raised $262,059.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.