For billionaire businessman Tom Steyer, a third-place finish in South Carolina, a state in which he spent a considerable amount of time and money, must have signaled the end of the line for his fledgling presidential run. It took another day, though, for former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg to also decide to pull the plug. The candidate list is dwindling fast and will continue to shrink as we get deeper into March.
For Steyer, South Carolina was an all-in strategy where he targeted African-American voters heavily and in recent weeks started to make some inroads. As NPR reports, however, it simply wasn’t enough:
Steyer aggressively courted the black vote in the state, with a focus on racial and economic justice but had a disappointing finish. Former Vice President Joe Biden was projected to win the state.
“I said if I didn’t see a path to winning, that I’d suspend my campaign,” Steyer told supporters on Saturday. “And honestly, I can’t see a path where I can win the presidency.”
Steyer had spent more time in South Carolina than any other candidate and fielded the largest on-the-ground campaign staff.
He caused a stir in this state because of his extensive spending. He spent nearly $24 million ads there and waged an aggressive direct-mail campaign. Some of his spending, including the practice of hiring local lawmakers as paid staff, drew unease that he was buying the black vote.
I got into this race to fight for racial, climate, and economic justice. I will continue that fight, and do everything I can to support the eventual nominee. I thank all of you for your support and love throughout the campaign. Join me in doing whatever it takes to beat Mr. Trump pic.twitter.com/8loWV87cS3
— Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) March 1, 2020
Steyer never realistically had a shot at the nomination. He was running as some kind of outsider, yet never really built a reason for his candidacy. Yes, he has money, lots of it, but he could be spending that on the sidelines. As a debater, he was always consistent, but rarely delivering anything more than his heavily scripted answers for each particular topic.
As inconsequential as Steyer is, Pete Buttigieg’s decision to drop out may have a measurable impact in some states on Super Tuesday. Buttigieg was scheduled for a Texas rally on Sunday night, but scrapped his plans and instead will be heading back home to announce the suspension of his presidential campaign:
Pete Buttigieg, the former small-city Indiana mayor and first openly gay major presidential candidate, has decided to quit the Democratic race, a person briefed on Mr. Buttigieg’s plans said on Sunday, following a crushing loss in the South Carolina primary where his poor performance with black Democrats signaled an inability to build a broad coalition of voters.
Mr. Buttigieg canceled plans for a Sunday night rally in Dallas and a Monday morning fund-raiser in Austin to return to South Bend to make a speech. “So a little bit of news for you about our flight,” he said. “We’re making a change in our travel plans and traveling to South Bend rather than to Texas. We’re going to be making an announcement there about the future of the campaign and we are looking forward to sharing with our supporters and with the country where we’re going from here. That is why you will find we are heading in a different direction.”
An aide said Mr. Buttigieg would announce the suspension of his campaign. During a call with the campaign staff minutes earlier, a Buttigieg official said the candidate “doesn’t want to move on” to Super Tuesday and beyond.
After peaking in Iowa, effectively winning the most delegates, but losing the overall popular vote, and then finishing second-place in New Hampshire, it’s been a downhill slide. South Carolina was probably the last test as to whether Buttigieg could continue to compete nationwide.
Buttigieg was still registering some measurable support in places like California, where RCP showed him holding 9% on average. He had similar numbers around the country which means that if the bulk of his voters end up moving toward Biden or Bernie, it could create a scenario where the primary is prolonged, or one candidate manages to coalesce a winning formula. There will be more fallout on Monday as the campaign transforms, once again, and voters have a smaller field to choose from.
Super Tuesday voting takes place on Tuesday, March 3.