Pete Buttigieg ends campaign as Super Tuesday beckons

Joe Biden gets huge boost in South Carolina which he long argued would be his ‘firewall’

Former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg has annouced the end of his presidential campaign. The 38 year-old veteran was the first openly gay candidate to run for the Democratic nomination. Video: Reuters

 

Former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg ended his presidential campaign on Sunday night, in a major reconfiguration of the Democratic race to become the party’s nominee.

The 38 year-old veteran - the first openly gay candidate to run for the Democratic nomination - confirmed he was suspending his campaign in his home town of South Bend.

“Today is a moment of truth,” he said. “The truth is that the path has narrowed to a close for our candidacy if not for our cause.

“I will no longer seek to be the 2020 nominee for president, but I will do everything in my power to ensure that we have a new Democratic president come January,” he said, to cheers of “2024, 2024.”

While he did not endorse a candidate, he called for a “broad and inclusive politics… that is the way forward for our eventual nominee,” a comment broadly seen as a reference to the centrist politics represented by candidates such as former vice president Joe Biden.

Mr Buttigieg had entered the race last year as a relative political unknown, but mounted a strong campaign, culminating with his victory in the Iowa caucus last month.

But on Saturday in the fourth primary of the season, he ended in fourth place in South Carolina, polling particularly poorly among African-American voters.

His departure from the campaign comes just before tomorrow’s Super Tuesday contest when more than a dozen states will choose their candidate to take on Donald Trump in November.

‘Firewall’

On Saturday, former vice president Joe Biden secured a huge boost after he surged to victory in the South Carolina primary.

Mr Biden, who has long argued that the southern state would be his “firewall,” clocked up a better-than-expected victory in the state, clinching almost 50 per cent of the vote.

The strong performance by the former vice president has imbued his campaign with a much-needed lift as the Democratic campaign enters a decisive phase with 14 states and one US territory due to vote tomorrow.

South Carolina – the fourth state to hold its selection process after Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada – also has the largest African-American population of the early-voting states. Some 56 per cent of voters in South Carolina on Saturday were African-Americans, with 61 per cent of this cohort voting for Mr Biden. The former vice president won every county in the state, indicating the breadth of his support in South Carolina.

Democratic presidential candidate and former US vice president Joe Biden celebrates with his supporters after declaring victory at an election-night rally at the University of South Carolina on February 29th in Columbia, South Carolina. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty
Democratic presidential candidate and former US vice president Joe Biden celebrates with his supporters after declaring victory at an election-night rally at the University of South Carolina on February 29th in Columbia, South Carolina. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty

Speaking to supporters in Columbia, Mr Biden thanked the voters of South Carolina for backing him. “Just days ago, the press and the pundits had declared this candidacy dead,” he declared. “Now thanks to all of you - the heart of the Democratic party - we’ve just won and we won big because of you, and we are very much alive.”

He also made a barely-veiled dig at front runner Bernie Sanders, asserting that Americans did not want a revolution but instead wanted “results.”

“If Democrats want a nominee who’s a Democrat, a lifelong Democrat, a proud Democrat, an Obama-Biden Democrat, join us,” he said to cheers. “We have the option of winning big or losing big. That’s the choice.”

Super Tuesday

Mr Biden’s commanding victory now puts him close behind Mr Sanders in the Democratic race. But he faces a tough battle on Tuesday when more than a third of all delegates are up for grabs.

Polling suggests that Mr Sanders is on course to win California - the largest state in the union with a coveted 415 pledged delegates – and possibly Texas, though Mr Biden has been polling better in the state and is due to campaign there on Monday.

Mr Biden is also polling relatively well in southern states voting on Tuesday such as Virginia and Alabama.

Tom Steyer, the billionaire businessman who finished in third place at 11 per cent in South Carolina having invested millions in the state in advertising, suspended his campaign on Saturday night, stating that he could not see a path forward to the nomination. He has not yet endorsed another candidate.

Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York who has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in advertisements, was not on the ballot in South Carolina but is contesting Super Tuesday states – the results will offer the first indication of his level of support in the country. Mr Bloomberg was due to air a new primetime three-minute ad addressing his ability to deal with the coronavirus yesterday, the latest in a series of polished TV and online ads devised by his campaign.

Mr Biden’s resolute victory on Saturday in South Carolina could underscore his argument that he is the best person to take on Mr Sanders.

The Vermont senator, who won the nomination contests in New Hampshire, Nevada, and the popular vote in Iowa, responded to his second-place showing in South Carolina at a rally in Virginia, one of the Super Tuesday states. Mr Sanders’ surge in the first three primary states had sparked alarm among many on the moderate side of the Democratic party that the high number of candidates is effectively splitting the non-Sanders vote.

“There are a lot of states in this country. No one wins them all,” he said to his supporters. “I want to congratulate Joe Biden tonight.” But he urged his supporters to look ahead to Super Tuesday, where he is well-placed to win a number of states, building in part on his growing popularity among Hispanic voters.

Tweeting late on Saturday after the Biden victory was announced, President Donald Trump tweeted: “Congratulations to Sleepy Joe Biden!”

In a separate tweet he claimed that Democrats were “working hard to destroy the name and reputation of Crazy Bernie Sanders, and take the nomination away from him!”

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