Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the Democratic presidential race on Sunday, conceding that the path to the nomination had narrowed to a close. Following a fourth place finish at the South Carolina primary and a distant third place at the Nevada caucuses, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., couldn’t rally enough support to stay in the crowded race. In a speech to supporters, Buttigieg said he had taken a hard look at the math before making his decision.
“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,” he said. “Our goal has always been to unify Americans to help defeat Donald Trump and to win the era for our values.”
His candidacy was a historic one — Buttigieg was the first openly gay major presidential candidate. He also overcame low name recognition and a slender resume to be surprisingly competitive in the early primary contests. Buttigieg eked out a narrow victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Iowa Caucus and had a strong second place finish in New Hampshire. However, he struggled to attract black Democrats and Latino voters, leading to poor showings in Nevada and South Carolina. That failure to perform well with those important constituencies doomed his candidacy. Buttigieg was not expected to win any Super Tuesday contests next week.
The former South Bend mayor was a hit with Hollywood donors. Entertainment industry figures contributed heavily to his campaign and hosted fundraisers on his behalf. His backers included Jeffrey Katzenberg, Ellen DeGeneres, David Geffen, Barbra Streisand and Gwyneth Paltrow.
On the campaign trail, the 38-year old Buttigieg argued that he was a voice of generational change, contrasting his youth with a field that included many septuagenarian candidates. He also warned that Sanders was too radical to attract middle-of-the-road voters and would lead the Democrats to electoral defeat. But the moderate lane has grown more competitive in recent days. Former Vice President Joe Biden scored a decisive victory in South Carolina and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be on the ballot on Super Tuesday after spending hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising. Buttigieg may have been more politically aligned with Bloomberg than with Sanders, but he was also critical of the mayor, accusing him of using his wealth to buy the election.
“We could wake up two weeks from today, the day after Super Tuesday, and the only candidates left standing will be Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, the two most polarizing figures on this stage,” Buttigieg said at the Democratic debate in Las Vegas. “And most Americans don’t see where they fit if they’ve got to choose between a socialist who thinks that capitalism is the root of all evil, and a billionaire who thinks that money ought to be the root of all power.”
Buttigieg served two terms as mayor of South Bend, the fourth-largest city in Indiana. He is a Harvard College graduate and Rhodes Scholar. Prior to entering politics, Buttigieg worked at the management consulting firm McKinsey. He was deployed to Afghanistan for seven months in 2014 as a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve.