Pete Buttigieg Drops Out

The Iowa winner and New Hampshire runner-up has acknowledged the inevitable.

The former South Bend mayor far exceeded any reasonable expectations in his 2020 bid. But he’s bowed to reality.

WaPo:

Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Ind., who saw a meteoric rise from virtual unknown to top-tier contender and became the first gay candidate to make a high-profile presidential run, is ending his campaign.

The development marks an abrupt end to what was briefly an ascendant candidacy, as Buttigieg won the Iowa caucuses and came in second in New Hampshire. But despite attracting enormous attention, significant support and sometimes enthusiastic crowds, there was no clear path forward toward the nomination.

Buttigieg’s decision comes shortly before Super Tuesday, the biggest primary day of the year, at a time when the Democratic race shows signs of becoming a race between Sen. Bernie Sanders and former vice president Joe Biden, with Biden occupying a centrist position that Buttigieg had hoped to make his own.

If there was one vulnerability that felled him, it was his inability to win trust or support from black voters, a key pillar of the Democratic coalition.

After a fourth-place finish in South Carolina Saturday — and results that showed he achieved abysmal levels of support with black voters–Buttigieg consulted with his team Saturday night before flying to Georgia to meet with former President Jimmy Carter Sunday. His campaign scheduled a Sunday night call for donors, and did not provide a subject.

Earlier that day, his campaign held a call with reporters in which senior adviser Michael Halle and deputy campaign manager Hari Sevugan made the case that while Buttigieg likely wouldn’t win any of the 14 states that vote Tuesday, Buttigieg could still accumulate enough delegates to keep Sanders’s lead to a minimum.

But Buttigieg’s campaign has also been realistic about its poll numbers, which allowed him to declare victory in Iowa before official results came in. His Sunday exit suggests his campaign’s internal numbers showed Buttigieg would not be able to stay within striking distance of Sanders on Super Tuesday.

Considering that he has done far better at the ballot box, has far more delegates, and has far more support in both that national and state-level polls than rivals Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, this almost certainly puts even more pressure on them to drop out. Warren, at least, has a fundraising advantage. But, if he didn’t have a path to a plurality of pledged delegates—and he did not—then neither do they.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Pete Buttigieg, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Moosebreath says:

    I suspect both Warren and Klobuchar are waiting until after their states vote on Super Tuesday to drop out.

    4
  2. Katharsis says:

    Warren has told staff recently that she is in through March.

    1
  3. CSK says:

    @Katharsis:
    She must be hoping for a a good showing in California, where she’s running second to Sanders in many polls.

    2
  4. Mister Bluster says:

    Warren…is in through March.

    Greenpapers shows 28 Democratic primaries and caucuses and the Northern Marianas Convention in March.
    15 of these events in three days on Super Duper Tuesday.
    I am loath to predict the future.
    So I won’t…

  5. Tyrell says:

    The other day it was Steyer. Now Mayor Pete. Something doesn’t seem right with this picture.

  6. Jax says:

    @Tyrell: It’s math.

    11
  7. Jen says:

    I like him, he was my choice, but this is a smart move for him.

    He’s young and has a future in the party. I hope he’ll be back when the timing is right.

    11
  8. Kurtz says:

    @Jen:

    I’m sure he is on the VP shortlist of two of the three likely nominees. The third should probably consider him, but my guess is he won’t.

    I think this is the best thing for Buttigieg’s future–no matter what happens in the general, 2024 shouldn’t feature an incumbent.

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  9. EddieInCA says:

    @Kurtz:

    I’m curious why you think he’d be part of a VP shortlist. What does he bring to a ticket, other than youth and inexperience?

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  10. EddieInCA says:

    @EddieInCA:

    @Kurtz Upon rereading my previous post, I realize it could come across as snark. Was not my intention.

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  11. Jen says:

    @EddieInCA: Three of the remaining Dem candidates are in their 70s–with two of them darn close to 80. Don’t discount youth as an important factor. He’s also from a red state, and is perceived as a moderate, and not to put too fine a point on it, he has received quite a few votes and delegates.

    That said, if he’s on VP lists, he probably isn’t very high up on them. A woman or POC are likely much higher up on the list.

    7
  12. Kylopod says:

    @Jen: I think Amy Klobuchar is a definite possibility, and for a non-candidate, I could definitely see Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin (in fact, she’s the one candidate I could potentially imagine being selected by either Biden or Sanders) or the other Tammy, in Illinois. For more of a Sun Belt strategy, they might go with Julian Castro, or Nevada’s Catherine Cortez Masto. (I’m skeptical of the Stacey Abrams buzz, but who knows.) Among the candidates who have run, besides the aforementioned ones I think Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris are both likelier to end up on the ticket than Mayor Pete.

    Pete’s basic problem is that his potential Midwestern appeal is reduced by the fact that he’s never won anything beyond small-town mayor, when there are several other potential picks who have won statewide in that region. He kept trying to bypass that fact during the debates, repeatedly boasting about how he’d won in the conservative state of Indiana, even though he’s smart enough to recognize the fallacy there. (Klobuchar shot him down every time he made this argument, pointing out that the one time he actually ran statewide in Indiana–for state treasurer–he lost by a wide margin to the guy whom Sen. Donnelly later trounced after making a dumb remark about rape. But that just underlines how little future he has in Indiana politics. If he wants to move up, his best choice may be going to a neighboring state like MI or IL, which wouldn’t be too blatant a carpetbag.) As for his inexperience, he probably should have just owned it instead of making these unconvincing arguments. I suppose he could have invoked President Lincoln who had only served two years in the House before becoming president, but that would likely have just provoked Joe or Bernie or Bloomie into saying something like “I knew Abe Lincoln. Abe Lincoln was a friend of mine. Mayor, you’re no Abe Lincoln.”

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  13. Jen says:

    @Kylopod: I think Buttigieg has a solid future in the Democratic party. I’d be happy to vote for him again. I think he, and Jason Kander from Missouri, are two interesting future candidates–I really like the fact that they have both served in the military.

    I don’t think Pete’s a super-compelling choice for VP. But, given that Donald Trump is now the youngest male candidate for president, having a young VP choice will be important for either Sanders or Biden. I like Tammy Baldwin and Tammy Duckworth and believe either of them would make an excellent VP choice–particularly Baldwin, as Wisconsin appears to remain firmly Trump territory.

    1
  14. Kurtz says:

    @EddieInCA:

    I didn’t take it that way. Youth, energy, intelligence, midwestern, telegenic. Those things are mostly missing in the remaining candidates.

    To me, he should be vetted by every campaign, even if they are leaning in a different direction.

    If the campaigns do not at least explore the possibility, they are making a mistake. Though maybe he belongs on the initial list, not necessarily the shortlist.

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  15. Kurtz says:

    @Jen:

    Both Duckworth and Baldwin are a
    solid choices.

    Cook moved Wisconsin and back into the toss-up category. I was surprised when I looked. My guess is it’s related to Biden’s performance.

    I’m curious why you don’t find Buttigieg compelling as a VP choice.

  16. Jen says:

    @Kurtz:

    I’m curious why you don’t find Buttigieg compelling as a VP choice.

    Mostly because I think the VP slot is going to need to add some spark to the ticket. That’s a somewhat amorphous term, I know, but I think it’s going to have to be someone who gets people excited and whomever is selected is going to have to do some heavy lifting to shore up the top of the ticket’s weak spots. If the nominee is Biden, Pete would bring youth but he’s perceived as a moderate and we’d likely hear cries of “neolibs” and “corporate Dems,” which could depress turnout. If the nominee is Sanders, I don’t see him picking Pete, even though having a young moderate from the Midwest would add balance to the ticket.

    This is all completely subjective, of course. There are a lot of factors that go into selecting a running mate, but a big one is something we’re not going to see and won’t have any knowledge of–it’s the ability to work together effectively. Someone who looks good on paper but doesn’t click with the nominee isn’t going to be selected.

    1
  17. KM says:

    @Kylopod:

    Pete’s basic problem is that his potential Midwestern appeal is reduced by the fact that he’s never won anything beyond small-town mayor, when there are several other potential picks who have won statewide in that region.

    I don’t think that really matters so much anymore. For God’s sake, we elected a man to the highest Office in the land as a starter job! Honestly the only reason to really care about the experience of the VP as a leader is if you think they might be replacing the President…. and since a ton of people seem to think 75+ year people being elected for a physically and mentally stressful 4 year 24/7 job will be just fine, they’ll accept Pete’s inexperience as not that big a deal. Pete’s young and has a ton of “electable” qualities ticked out – it’s really the fact that he’s inexperienced and gay that’s kept him down. If the top of the ticket ends up being Rich Old White Guy again (Bloomberg, Biden and yes, Sanders!) then Pete could be Just PC Enough to appease some liberals while not scaring off the rest.

    As for Warren being the VP, it will only happen if it’s Bloomberg and even then that’s a huge maybe. Sanders would never take her since they’re too similar on the platform and Biden would want someone less controversial to soften any attacks against him. If she’s not the nominee, she’s toast. Harris has a shot at VP but will likely get something in the Cabinet, most likely AG. Should Warren pulls off a miracle and end up on top, Sanders and Biden are off the table for VP. Sanders would never accept it even if they were crazy enough to offer (ego issues) and Biden would be up and done with all of it.

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  18. Kurtz says:

    @Jen:

    My views is that VP picks are mostly benign, but choosing wrong hurts more than choosing well helps. With the possible exception of picking a popular person from a competitive state.

    On the neoliberal thing. It’s tough with Pete, because it’s not like he’s centrist. I’m also not sure how many current Sanders supporters are of the petulant variety, but it’s certainly a risk.

    I’m as frustrated by neo-liberalism as just about anyone on the left, but I’m more frustrated with the cynicism that leads to staying home. But I think my bigger concern centers on whether Obama-Trump voters are being read correctly by conventional wisdom.

  19. Kurtz says:

    @KM:

    As for Warren being the VP, it will only happen if it’s Bloomberg and even then that’s a huge maybe.

    I’d be concerned about Warren’s vacated seat.

    1
  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    If Bernie’s going to be stopped Warren needs to stay in and Klobuchar needs to get out after Tuesday. It would be nice if Bloomberg bailed as well, but I don’t see that happening, at least till after Super T. Then he should get out and throw his financial backing to Biden.

    Bernie isn’t going to have a first ballot win, but will likely have a plurality. The thing is to get Biden within a reasonable distance of Bernie. If Bernie’s got 40% and Biden’s got 35% the Super Delegates can move Biden to a win.

    As for Veeps, I don’t see a choice that carries a state with the possible exception of Sherrod Brown and Ohio. Biden is already practically a favorite son in PA. I don’t know who’d have enough weight to move Michigan. I wonder about Gillum in Florida.

    I also wonder about the idea of Biden declaring a unity ticket with a full cabinet slate, picking Castro, Gillum or Harris for Veep, Harris for DOJ if she doesn’t get Veep, Warren at HHS, Buttigieg for Veterans or Interior, Klobuchar for Education, Adam Schiff as DNI, going further out there, bring back Mattis as DoD, and going way , way out there, Obama for State.

  21. Kit says:

    @Kurtz:

    My views is that VP picks are mostly benign, but choosing wrong hurts more than choosing well helps

    Actuarial tables will be a subject of the next election. A smart guy (and it looks like is going to be a guy) could use that to his advantage. If Biden were to pick an exciting running mate from the more progressive side of the party, then younger voters might be persuaded with a “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” that there’s a real chance of fresh blood simply inheriting the presidency. And if not, then the heir apparent gets to enjoy four years of being publicly groomed on the biggest stage. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

    4
  22. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kurtz:

    My view is that VP picks are mostly benign, but choosing wrong hurts more than choosing well helps. With the possible exception of picking a popular person from a competitive state.

    Yep. In a perfect world I’d look for a Latinx Veep. That might help spark turnout. But aside from Castro I don’t know who that would be.

    1
  23. Kurtz says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Yeah, I don’t have a feel for. One of the downsides to not holding a ton of governor seats. The bench is light. Some of the decent options for Veep or important cabinter positions are Senators in states that may fill the vacated seat with an R.

  24. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I also wonder about the idea of Biden declaring a unity ticket with a full cabinet slate, picking Castro, Gillum or Harris for Veep, Harris for DOJ if she doesn’t get Veep, Warren at HHS, Buttigieg for Veterans or Interior, Klobuchar for Education, Adam Schiff as DNI, going further out there, bring back Mattis as DoD, and going way , way out there, Obama for State.

    These exercises are fun. I don’t know how much they would sway voters but they might help generate buy-in.

    I’m not sure Warren would give up a Senate seat for HHS but at least Massachusetts is safely blue. Ditto Klobuchar and Education—except that Minnesota could theoretically go red.

    I can’t imagine Obama taking any formal role other than maybe a SCOTUS seat. Running State would be an incredible let-down. It would really be more useful to use him in the sort of Elder Statesman role that Clinton and the two Bushes (and, to a lesser extent, Carter) have been used in.

  25. Kurtz says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m not sure Warren would give up a Senate seat for HHS but at least Massachusetts is safely blue. Ditto Klobuchar and Education—except that Minnesota could theoretically go red.

    My concern is the Mass. Gov gets an interim appointment who would serve until March, give or take.

    I would think a repeat of Scott Brown is unlikely, but not impossible.

  26. wr says:

    @Kylopod: No intelligent nominee will choose a VP who’s a sitting senator from a state with a Republican governor. It would be throwing away any chance of getting anything done.

    1
  27. wr says:

    @KM: “If she’s not the nominee, she’s toast.”

    If by “toast” you mean a US Senator…

    1
  28. wr says:

    @James Joyner: I like the idea of Obama on the Supreme Court. He’d be my second choice after Katie Porter. May they be the first of many…

    1
  29. KM says:

    @wr:
    Touche. We do have a way of forgetting that once they drop out, candidates tend to have other things to do. I’d like to call it a testament to the overbearing nature of the President campaign season but really it’s the nature of politics and the American attention span. “Hah hah, you lost and now you’re just a loser like….. oh wait, you’re still a what? Damnit!”

  30. Kurtz says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    As for Veeps, I don’t see a choice that carries a state with the possible exception of Sherrod Brown and Ohio. Biden is already practically a favorite son in PA. I don’t know who’d have enough weight to move Michigan. I wonder about Gillum in Florida.

    Brown could possibly deliver Ohio. In fact, I was surprised Clinton picked Kaine, because I thought Brown made more sense. But she probably thought she waa going to win and didn’t want to lose a Senate seat.

    Abrams and Gillum would be be interesting choices.

    Gillum is more interesting in terms of potential for a flip. I don’t think Georgia is quite there yet. But I think Gillum running with Biden or Bloomberg works well. Gillum should drive turnout in the metros, and the top of the ticket brings the NeverTrumpers and a few MaybeTrumpers into the fold.

    I don’t think the cupboard is that bare overall, but many of the most interesting prospects in the farm system are just not ready for the show.

  31. Kylopod says:

    @KM:

    I don’t think that really matters so much anymore. For God’s sake, we elected a man to the highest Office in the land as a starter job!

    I wasn’t talking about qualifications (though I disagree with your premise that qualifications no longer matter because of Trump), I was talking about home-state advantages. Klobuchar and Baldwin have won statewide in key Midwestern states, which makes them potentially formidable not just in their own state but in the overall region. As a small-town mayor, Pete has potential strength in the region, but it isn’t as clear-cut. South Bend isn’t just tiny, it’s also solidly blue. The one advantage he gets is his simply BEING a Midwesterner—which isn’t nothing—but he hasn’t yet demonstrated any significant ability to win in the kind of swing areas Dems need.

    I should add that the evidence of home-state advantages for vp candidates is rather mixed. In 2004, John Kerry put a sitting Senator from NC on his ticket and went on to lose the state by double digits, just four years before a ticket with no Southerners managed to win the state. My own opinion is that home-state advantages are real (I believe Kaine did help Hillary in VA, though she would probably have won the state anyway), even if they aren’t a magic bullet.

    1
  32. Richard Gardner says:

    I could see Buttigieg as a Cabinet Secretary, but under a second Trump Administration because Trump delights in the unexpected against his opponents. A token olive branch across the aisle, and it would build his resume beyond South Bend. But I think VA would be the kiss of death in the long term, beyond his ability to oversee. Maybe an Asst Deputy position at Defense?

  33. An Interested Party says:

    I could see Buttigieg as a Cabinet Secretary, but under a second Trump Administration because Trump delights in the unexpected against his opponents. A token olive branch across the aisle, and it would build his resume beyond South Bend.

    Highly, highly doubtful considering what his evangelical base thinks of gay people and since when has Trump ever given a token olive branch across the aisle…

    1
  34. Jax says:

    @Richard Gardner: Working for Trump would be the kiss of death for Buttigieg, I think the only one that’s come out unscathed from the Trump administration is John Huntsman, Jr. And that’s probably because his family has more money than Trump.

  35. Jen says:

    Buttigieg would not work for Trump. Full stop.

    1