Pete Buttigieg, who rose from relative obscurity as an Indiana mayor to a potential barrier-breaking candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, has quit the campaign.
The decision by the first openly gay candidate to seriously contend for the presidency — and among the youngest ever — came just a day after a leading rival, Joe Biden, scored a resounding victory in South Carolina.
That sparked new pressure on the party’s moderate wing to coalesce behind the former vice president.
Pete Buttigieg announces he's pulling out of the race for the Democratic candidacy in South Bend, Indiana.
“The truth is the path has narrowed to a close for our candidacy if not for our cause,” Buttigieg, 38, told supporters in South Bend, Indiana.
“We must recognise 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 didn’t endorse any of his former rivals, though he and Biden traded voicemails on Sunday.
Buttigieg has spent the past several weeks warning that nominating progressive leader Bernie Sanders to take on President Donald Trump would be risky.
Buttigieg on Sunday called on supporters to ensure that a Democrat wins the White House in November and that the party’s success carries over to down-ballot races for House and Senate.
During previous debates, Buttigieg said Sanders could threaten Democratic seats in Congress.
More broadly, Buttigieg urged Americans to move beyond the divisive politics of the Trump era to embrace a more inclusive, unifying approach.
“Politics at its worst is ugly,” he said. “But at its best, politics can lift us up. It is not just policymaking. It is moral. It is soulcraft. That’s why we’re in this.”
Buttigieg kissed his husband, Chasten, as he walked onto the stage and offered a message for children who might be watching.
Voters saw Buttigieg in the more moderate lane of the Democratic field, and he flourished early with a top finish in the Iowa caucuses and a close second place finish in New Hampshire. But as the race moved to more diverse states, less dependent on college-educated voters, Buttigieg struggled.
Despite robust organisations in Iowa and New Hampshire and supporters who included an influx of former independents and Republicans, Buttigieg failed to overcome daunting questions about his ability to draw African American support key to the Democratic base.