Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor who made history by becoming the first openly gay candidate to be a serious contender for president, has dropped out of the race to become the next Democratic nominee.
“The truth is the path has narrowed to a close for our candidacy if not for our cause,” Buttigieg told supporters in South Bend, Indiana. “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.”
The decision to drop out of the race came a day after Buttigieg’s devastating defeat in the South Carolina primary that left the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor at a crossroads as it became more evident than ever that he had a strong vulnerability. His fourth-place finish in South Carolina showed that Buttigieg lacked the ability attract support from black Democrats, which “signaled an inability to build a broad coalition of voters,” notes the New York Times.
Despite the poor results in South Carolina, the decision came as a surprise to many, considering how Buttigieg had managed to grow his candidacy in the past few months. From an unknown on the national stage Buttigieg went on to win the Iowa caucuses and came in second in New Hampshire as he excited a certain part of the electorate that was attracted to his charisma and centrist positions. But his decision to drop out shortly before Super Tuesday was a clear illustration of how the Democratic contest appears to be narrowing to a race between Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden. Many see Biden as occupying the same centrist mantle that Buttigieg hoped to be able to claim for himself.
Buttigieg had criticized Biden in the past, describing him as a lifelong politician who was not the type of candidate that the Democrats needed to inspire voters. But he had recently focused much of his criticism on Sanders. While Buttigieg didn’t mention him by name when he announced he was dropping out, some parts of his speech seemed directed at the senator from Vermont. “We need leadership to heal a divided nation, not drive us further apart,” Buttigieg said. “We need a broad-based agenda that can truly deliver for the American people, not one that gets lost in ideology.”
In a call with donors Sunday night, Buttigieg said that dropping out was “the right thing to do, when we looked at the math.” Buttigieg also said he was concerned about what effect he would have on the race if he stayed without a chance of winning, insisting that Democrats needed to put forward “the right kind of nominee” in order to beat President Donald Trump.
An aide to the former mayor said the decision to drop out was based on a realistic look at the numbers. “Essentially the reason he is suspending his campaign is the reason he started the campaign: His goal is to defeat the president and bring a new kind of politics to our country,” a Buttigieg aide said. “He thought his candidacy would be best vehicle to do that. And when it became clear his candidacy was not the most viable vehicle to do that, he stepped aside to make sure [Democrats] could still achieve those things.”
This is a breaking news story and has been updated with new information since it was first published.