The Slatest

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock Drops Out of Presidential Race

Steve Bullock speaks on a stage.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock speaks to Democratic voters on Nov. 1 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Steve Bullock, a moderate candidate who pitched himself as a red state Democrat proven capable of winning over Republican voters, has announced that he will no longer seek the presidency.

“While there were many obstacles we could not have anticipated when entering into this race, it has become clear that in this moment, I won’t be able to break through to the top tier of this still-crowded field of candidates,” Bullock said in his statement thanking his supporters Monday.

Bullock joined the race late, in May, after the conclusion of the Montana Legislature’s session, during which he worked on the reauthorization of Medicaid expansion. He focused his energy on Iowa but never rose to a position among the most competitive candidates and failed to qualify for all but one of the debates.

Though his decision leaves no large vacuum in the presidential race, some national Democrats may be dismayed at Bullock’s decision not to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Steve Daines—a decision he reiterated on Monday. “While he plans to work hard to elect Democrats in the state and across the country in 2020, it will be in his capacity as a governor and a senior voice in the Democratic Party—not as a candidate for U.S. Senate,” Bullock’s spokeswoman said in a statement.

Bullock won two terms as governor of Montana, a reliably conservative state. He leaned on that talking point for the race, emphasizing his red state appeal, and noted repeatedly that he was the only candidate in the field to have won a 2016 election in a state carried by Trump. But other, more prominent Democrats were able to more successfully claim the centrist position Bullock targeted. He now has one year left in his term as governor.

Bullock’s announcement came only a day after Joe Sestak, the former congressman from Pennsylvania, ended his campaign. There are still 17 candidates vying for the Democratic nomination.