Mayor Pete Buttigieg is ending his presidential campaign, the candidate reportedly informed his staff in a conference call on Sunday night. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana won the Iowa caucuses by a hair last month and finished second in New Hampshire, but did poorly in Nevada and South Carolina, where the self-proclaimed moderate won less than 3 percent of black voters — a dismal return from a critical segment of the Democratic electorate nationwide.
Buttigieg, the first openly gay major presidential candidate in American history, became a sensation within the Democratic Party last summer, and went on to raise $76 million before the year was finished. He was also the youngest candidate in the race, at 38, and the only veteran among the major candidates, having served as a naval intelligence officer in Afghanistan.
As far as the timing of his departure from the primary field — just two days before Super Tuesday’s 15-state-and-territory mega-vote — an aide who spoke with CNN’s Jake Tapper made it sound like Buttigieg is trying to make sure Bernie Sanders, who Mayor Pete has attacked as too extreme, does not win the Democratic nomination. “He’s getting out for the same reason he got in: he believes we need to beat Donald Trump and that we need to make sure we have the strongest candidate possible to do it,” the unidentified aide reportedly said. If Buttigieg is readying an endorsement toward that aim, it’s not yet clear.
Intelligencer’s Gabriel Debenedetti noted another possible reason shortly after the news of Buttigieg’s exit broke — protecting his likely bright future in the Democratic Party:
But another issue, looking ahead to Tuesday, is how many early voters have now effectively wasted their votes on the candidate in massive states like California and Texas.
Buttigieg was also the second Democratic presidential candidate to drop out over the weekend; billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer left the race on Saturday night after his expensive push to win South Carolina failed.
This is a developing news story and this post has been updated.