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After failing to resonate with voters in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has dropped out of the presidential race.
The move comes just days ahead of the “Super Tuesday” contests that are likely to set the tone for the remainder of the Democratic primary. Yesterday, Tom Steyer, another Democratic candidate, dropped out of the race after coming in third in South Carolina.
Buttigieg ended up finishing a distant fourth in Saturday’s contest, with just over 8% of the vote. With Buttigieg and Steyer out of the race, the remaining field includes Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden, Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders. After his big win in South Carolina, Biden looks to be vying with Sanders for frontrunner status.
Small town, big stage
Buttigieg’s run for president propelled him from small town mayor to one of the leading candidates on the national stage. Certain aspects of his background helped him stand out among other contenders. At only 38 years old, he was the youngest candidate in the field.
Buttigieg is also an Afghanistan war veteran and the first openly gay candidate in American presidential history. Throughout his run, he exuded a calm, reasoned demeanor that won over many moderate Democrats, who believed his “big tent” style reflected that of former President Barack Obama.
Over the course of his campaign, he found a strong base of support among older white voters, especially in places like Iowa, where he narrowly beat out Sanders in the Iowa caucuses. Despite the early success, Buttigieg failed to gain enough steam with the younger demographic and black voters, who resoundly rejected him in South Carolina.
Reason for exiting now
Speaking on why Buttigieg dropped out just days ahead of Super Tuesday, a strategist familiar with the campaign said that “he studied the math [and] he knew there wasn’t a path forward.”
An aide, meanwhile, emphasized that Buttigieg thought his exit was the best thing for the race and the country at the time. “He believes this is the right thing to do right now for our country and [for] the country to heal this divided nation and defeat President Trump," said the aide.
Regardless of his decision to drop out, some suggest that Buttigieg has a future in the Democratic Party. “The Pete Buttigieg story isn’t over. It’s just beginning,” said David Axelrod, the former chief strategist for the Obama campaign.
“He’s vaulted himself into the national conversation. He obviously has work to do on some things that — some weaknesses we’ve seen in this election — but whenever there is a conversation again about Democratic candidates, he’ll be in that conversation. And that’s a remarkable achievement, given where he started a year ago,” he added.
Other groups to the left of Buttigieg, however, applauded his exit. A Black Lives Matter group from South Bend released a statement that said they “hope that he learned his lesson that neoliberalism and anti-Black policies will no longer be tolerated.”
As mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg received criticism over the way he handled issues affecting the black community, which might have impacted his candidacy as he struggled to garner votes from younger, more left-leaning demographics.