South Carolina’s Democratic primary on Saturday marked the fourth statewide contest of the season — and not everyone came out of it faring as well as they would have hoped.
After finishing in a distant fourth place in the Palmetto State, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg called it quits, according to Breitbart, ending his campaign for the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nomination.
Pete calls it quits
Buttigieg announced the suspension of his campaign in a speech to supporters in his hometown of South Bend late Sunday. The address came just minutes after the Associated Press, citing campaign staffers, reported that Buttigieg would be dropping out.
“Tonight I am making the difficult decision to suspend my campaign for the presidency,” Buttigieg said Sunday, according to a transcript provided by Rev. “I will do everything in my power to ensure that we have a new Democratic president come January.
“In a field in which more than two dozen Democratic candidates ran for president — senators and governors, billionaires, a former vice president — we achieved a top-four finish in each of the first four states,” Buttigieg added. “We found countless Americans ready to support a middle-class millennial mayor from the industrial Midwest, not in spite of that experience but because of it, eager to get Washington to start working like our best-run communities.”
Buttigieg finished first place in the Iowa caucuses and came in a close second in New Hampshire, but slipped after that, finishing third in Nevada and fourth in South Carolina, behind former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and billionaire Tom Steyer, who has also since left the race, according to The New York Times.
“I said if I didn’t see a path to winning that I’d suspend my campaign. And honestly, I can’t see a path where I can win the presidency,” Steyer told supporters in a video shared to his Twitter page on Saturday.
America “deserves better”
For his part, Buttigieg had worked his way to the top tier of candidates in the Democratic primary race, despite his relatively little political experience, thanks in large part to an adoring media. NBC News reported late last month that Buttigieg was the first openly gay candidate to have “ever won a state’s presidential nominating contest,” and since suspending his campaign, he has continued to be lauded by the likes of USA Today and BuzzFeed News.
But even this, combined with Buttigieg’s substanceless sweet-talk in the debates, wasn’t enough to push the former mayor over the edge. Buttigieg had tried to portray himself as an Obama-esque blank slate who could be all things to all people, playing up his military service and Christian faith alongside his involvement in the LGBTQ community, but even before South Carolina, his strategy was falling flat.
According to NBC, an LGBTQ group released a letter in late January asserting that the “community deserves better than Pete.” The former mayor’s tendency to degrade President Donald Trump’s supporters also didn’t do him any favors.
For his part, the president hasn’t hesitated to weigh in on the Democratic primary race thus far, and after Buttigieg dropped out, Trump again didn’t hold back. He tied the former mayor’s exit from the race to a theory among some that the Democratic establishment is doing everything it can to stop Sen. Sanders from winning the party’s nomination, writing:
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 1, 2020
It does seem odd that Buttigieg would drop out just days ahead of more than a dozen primary contests on Super Tuesday, especially given the success he saw in some of the early primary states. Whether the overarching desire of the party establishment to block Sanders had anything to do with Buttigieg’s decision remains to be seen, however.