Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old openly gay former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who skyrocketed to the top of the field early in the Democratic nomination race, has dropped his presidential bid. Buttigieg won the most delegates in the Iowa caucuses and finished second in the New Hampshire primary, but struggled to come up with a path forward after coming in third in Nevada and fourth in South Carolina.
"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 told supporters Sunday night in South Bend.
Buttigieg said he would do "everything in my power" to make sure a Democrat wins the 2020 general election. He noted his campaign's emphasis on "broad and inclusive politics" and said he still believes that is the "way forward for our eventual nominee." He encouraged supporters to join together for the cause and emphasized the importance of supporting a nominee who would help win down-ballot races.
It was unclear Sunday night whether Buttigieg planned to endorse any of his rivals, but Joe Biden was considered the likely choice. A Biden aide said the two had yet to connect, given that both were crossing the country on Sunday, but they had traded voicemails.
Buttigieg was scheduled to attend a town hall Sunday evening in Dallas but announced his flight from Selma, Alabama, was being diverted to South Bend, where he planned to make an announcement. Buttigieg had just finished marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 55th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
Buttigieg, the youngest candidate in the race, staked his candidacy on generational change, offering voters a vision for ushering in a new generation of political leadership. He pitched himself as a Washington outsider, often telling voters his campaign was about getting "Washington to run a little more like our best run cities and towns than the other way around."
He also offered voters a moderate alternative to Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, which he showcased with policies on health care — "Medicare for all who want it" — and college affordability, rather than free college. Buttigieg proposed allowing Americans to opt into a government health care plan, but also letting citizens to retain their private health insurance if they preferred that option. In contrast, Sanders' "Medicare for All" plan calls for a government-run health care system that would eliminate private health insurance.
As the nominating contests were underway, Buttigieg drew sharp contrasts with Sanders on policy and tone. He often told crowds at campaign stops that Sanders offers voters a choice between a "revolution" or the "status quo" that could risk alienating voters needed to build the coalition to beat Mr. Trump.
"We can prioritize either ideological purity or inclusive victory," Buttigieg said on the night of the Nevada caucuses. "We can either call people names online or we can call them into our movement."
Buttigieg frequently said his campaign was about building a sense of belonging and a coalition of Democrats, Republicans and "future former Republicans." A few days after the New Hampshire primary, Buttigieg reflected on the historic nature of his run.
"My belief in American belonging is reflected in my experience before you right now, as somebody who is not that removed from the memory of being a teenager in Indiana, wondering if he would ever fit in this world, wondering if something about him meant that he would always be on the outside, would never serve in uniform or in office, would never be accepted, would never even know love," Buttigieg said at a Democratic Party dinner on Valentine's Day in California. "And that very same person is standing in front of you leading right now in the delegate race for the nomination for the presidency."
The former South Bend mayor had strong performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, states with predominantly white populations, but his message failed to resonate with the majority of minority voters. Buttigieg argued on the campaign trail that performing well in Iowa and New Hampshire would demonstrate his ability to win. And with the strong finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, he argued that minority voters would give his candidacy a second look.
However, his theory of the race didn't play out. He received just 2% support from black voters and 12% from Hispanic voters in Nevada, according to CBS News entrance polling data.
Similarly, in South Carolina, where approximately 60% of the Democratic primary electorate are African American voters, Buttigieg received 3% support from black voters, according to CBS News exit polling data.
Buttigieg and his campaign suffered some missteps in their outreach to the African-American community during the election cycle, including the use of a stock photo of a Kenyan woman on a page of his campaign website when he released his plan to end systemic racism in the U.S.
And his record as South Bend mayor and his complex relationship with law enforcement came under intense scrutiny after a white police officer fatally shot Eric Logan, a black South Bend resident, in June 2019.
Although he struggled with minority voters, the millennial military veteran nonetheless impressed a number of voters with his call for generational change and his quick intellect. In the second quarter of 2019, Buttigieg prioritized fundraising and posted the top haul for the quarter, displaying his fundraising prowess among high-dollar donors and grassroots donors.
Buttigieg's campaign heavily invested in Iowa and New Hampshire by expanding its ground operation in the first two nominating contests. The campaign focused on relational organizing, which emphasized building out personal networks, rather than traditional organizing strategies. And Buttigieg's campaign offered substantial access to the candidate with three bus tours with press members, two in Iowa and one in New Hampshire. But his team was slower to grow its operation in Nevada and South Carolina, states with more diverse, dispersed electorates.
After meeting with former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter Sunday morning in Plains, Georgia, Buttigieg told reporters he wanted to make sure his run for president is "useful" and was heading in the "right direction."
"Every day, we get up, we assess where we are and we look at how we can be making the biggest contribution to the future and every day that we've been running this campaign has been based on our belief that our campaign's message is the right one," Buttigieg said Sunday morning.