UPDATE: Pete Buttigieg ended his presidential bid with a speech that touched on the historic nature of his candidacy and the political reality that he didn’t see a route to the Democratic nomination.
“The path has narrowed to a close for our candidacy if not four our cause,” he told a crowd of supporters, who chanted “2024! 2024!” at one point.
Buttigieg suggested that he did not want to remain in the race and be a spoiler.
“We must recognize that at this point in the race, the best way to keep faith with those goals and ideals is to step aside and help bring our party and country together,” he said.
His husband, Chasten, who was a prominent part of the campaign, choked up at points as he introduced Buttigieg, telling the crowd, “I told Pete to run because I knew there were other kids in this country who needed to believe in themselves too.”
Buttigieg was the first openly gay presidential candidate to win a nomination contest, after he won the most delegates in the Iowa caucuses. As he hugged and kissed his husband on stage, it was less than five years ago that same sex marriage was legalized across the country.
Buttigieg told the crowd, “We send a message to every kid out there wondering if whatever marks them out as different means they are somehow destined to be less than. To see that someone who once felt that exact same way can become a leading American presidential candidate, with his husband by his side.”
Some of his showbiz supporters reacted to his decision to end his candidacy with a prediction that he had a big future.
“I am proud of Mayor Pete and what he has accomplished,” wrote George Takei. “I see him going all the way to the White House one day.”
PREVIOUSLY: Pete Buttigieg is suspending his presidential bid, after a distant fourth place showing in the South Carolina primary.
Buttigieg was the first openly gay presidential candidate to win a presidential nominating contest, when he won the race for delegates in Iowa.
Buttigieg was en route to South Bend, Indiana, where he served as that city’s mayor, to make the announcement. He told reporters on his campaign plane that they were changing travel plans from a planned stop in Texas, while CNN and other outlets reported that he would announce that he was dropping out of the race.
A virtual unknown when the 2020 race started, Buttigieg built a substantial campaign and fundraising organization, drawing on substantial early contributions from the LGBT community. Last March, a well-received CNN town hall helped drive attention to his candidacy, and he emerged as one of the standouts in the large field of candidates.
He became a favorite of Hollywood donors, beating many more established candidates in fundraising for much of 2019, with industry backers drawn in part to his promise of a political fresh start and the historic nature of his campaign. Seth MacFarlane and Lee Daniels co-hosted an event for him last month, while other figures such as Gwyneth Paltrow, former NBCUniversal executive Kevin MacLellan, producer Bruce Cohen and producer Nicole Avant were among his bundlers.
But after a top finish in Iowa and a second place showing in New Hampshire, Buttigieg failed to take off in the more racially diverse states of Nevada and, on Saturday, South Carolina. But his campaign also had some bad breaks: The expected bounce out of Iowa never fully materialized because of the botched way the state party handled results. Supporters thought that he would have won New Hampshire but was hurt by a negative Biden ad unveiled just days before the vote that compared their experiences.
Earlier on Sunday, Buttigieg appeared to have been determined to stay in the race. He said on Meet the Press, “We have reached the conclusion that pushing forward is the best thing we can do for the country and the party.” He also was in Plains, GA, to meet with former President Jimmy Carter, another political unknown when he entered the 1976 presidential race. Carter said that he was a fan of Buttigieg but indicated that he had to decide whether to stay in the race.
Buttigieg’s move may consolidate support for Joe Biden, coming off an overwhelming victory in South Carolina on Saturday, as he tries to slow Bernie Sanders drive to the nomination.
President Donald Trump reacted to the news of Buttigieg’s decision to drop out, taking the opportunity to try to sow discord among Democrats.
“Pete Buttigieg is OUT. All of his SuperTuesday votes will go to Sleepy Joe Biden. Great timing. This is the REAL beginning of the Dems taking Bernie out of play – NO NOMINATION, AGAIN!”
Mike Bloomberg wrote that Buttigieg “ran a strong campaign that inspired audiences and made history. His dedication to serving our nation – as a mayor and veteran – reflected a love of country I deeply admire. Our party is stronger and our nation is better because of his run.”
The question now is where Buttigieg’s supporters go after his exit from the race.
He was not expected to endorse in his speech in South Bend, but in recent debates he has been the most persistent critic of Sanders as too big of a risk as a Democratic nominee. Buttigieg was planning a conference call with his campaign bundlers before his South Bend speech, as a number of fundraisers, many of them participating in a presidential race for the first time, were taken by surprise by the decision. Some have already expressed an inclination to work for Biden.
After his South Carolina victory, Biden’s fundraisers say they have been inundated with offers of support. He is scheduled to headline an event on Wednesday at the home of Sherry Lansing, and one co-host said that interest has been “blowing up.” Rufus Gifford, former U.S. ambassador to Denmark and finance director of Barack Obama’s 2012 election campaign, wrote that he “spent the day responding to 100s (yes literally 100s) of requests from people – some previously backing other candidates, some neutral until now – asking what they can do to help elect Joe Biden.”
Sanders is holding a rally in Los Angeles on Sunday evening, with a lineup that includes Chuck D of Public Enemy, comedian Sarah Silverman and Dick Van Dyke.