Former South Bend Mayor, Pete Buttigieg abruptly ended his campaign for President Sunday night, saying he no longer saw a chance of winning, following a crushing loss in the South Carolina primary where his poor performance with black Democrats signaled an inability to build a broad coalition of voters.
“Today is a moment of truth. After a year of going everywhere, meeting everyone, defying every expectation, seeking every vote the truth is that the path has narrowed to a close for our candidacy if not for our cause,” Buttigieg made the announcement during an event on Sunday in South Bend. “So tonight I am making the difficult decision to suspend my campaign for the presidency. I will no longer seek to be the 2020 Democratic nominee for president, but I will do everything in my power to ensure that we have a new Democratic president come January.”
Buttigieg was scheduled to fly from Selma, Alabama, to Dallas, Texas, on Sunday, but during the flight he informed reporters that he would be flying back to his hometown of South Bend to make an announcement on the future of his campaign.
The former South Bend, Ind., mayor gained early momentum after he narrowly won the Iowa caucuses last month and finished a close second in New Hampshire. But his campaign struggled to win over voters of color, a key base to the Democratic Party, which hurt his performance in Nevada and South Carolina, two states where Buttigieg finished significantly behind the race’s frontrunners — Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Former Vice President Joe Biden.
The decision to drop out just before Super Tuesday, where one-third of all delegates for the nomination will be at stake, is a potential boon for Biden, who’s looking for moderate and establishment Democrats to unite behind his campaign in an effort to stop Sanders’s front-runner momentum.
Buttigieg talked with Biden and former President Barack Obama on Sunday night, according to a Democratic official familiar with the conversations. It is reported that Biden asked for Buttigieg’s support and the former mayor indicated he would consider the request and will get back to him before Super Tuesday.
In his remarks, Buttigieg directed criticism toward Sanders, without naming him, saying we need a leader “to heal a divided nation, not drive us further apart.”
“We need leadership to heal a divided nation, not drive us further apart,” Buttigieg said. “We need a broad based agenda to truly deliver for the American people, not one that gets lost in ideology. We need an approach strong enough not only to win the White House, but hold the House, win the Senate and send Mitch McConnell into retirement.”
Buttigieg ran hard against Sanders towards the end of his campaign, raising questions about the self-identified Democratic socialist and the impact that nominating a “divisive” candidate could do to down ballot races.
“If you want to keep the House in Democratic hands, you might want to check with the people who actually turned the house blue,” Buttigieg said at the South Carolina debate last week. “Forty Democrats… They are running away from your platform as fast as they possibly can. I want to send those Democrats back to the United States House.”
Sanders on Sunday in Los Angeles, made a brief statement congratulating Buttigieg on running “a brilliant campaign” and invited his former rival’s supporters to join his campaign.
“He is the first openly gay candidate for president of the United States and he did extraordinarily well,” Sanders said. “And tonight, I just want to welcome all of his supporters into our movement and to urge them to joining us in the fight for real change in this country.”
Buttigieg entered the 2020 race as a relative unknown, launching his exploratory committee from a windowless conference room in Washington, DC. Buttigieg raised more than $80 million during his 2020 run, including an impressive $25 million haul in the second quarter of 2019 that allowed the former mayor to invest heavily in Iowa and New Hampshire.
But Buttigieg’s fundraising success was not everlasting. The campaign entered February with just $6.6 million in the bank and they struggled to hit their goal of raising $13 million in the weeks leading up to Super Tuesday. He faced campaigning coast-to-coast for Super Tuesday with evaporating funds and little chance of clearing the threshold of 15 percent of votes needed to amass delegates.
Last week, Buttigieg told reporters that “by Super Tuesday, we could be on an irreversible trajectory toward nominating Senator Sanders unless we come together around an alternative; I’m offering to be that alternative.”
Billionaire businessman Tom Steyer ended his campaign Saturday night, shortly after South Carolina primary projected Biden the winner.