Pete Buttigieg told supporters he’s ending his presidential campaign on Sunday, a campaign source confirmed to Fox News, in an abrupt and surprising pullout that further narrows the field of Democrats less than a month after he declared victory in the contested Iowa caucuses.
Buttigieg had been scheduled to headline a rally in Dallas, Texas on Sunday night. The charter plane has been rerouted to South Bend, Ind., where Buttigieg will announce that he is dropping out, Fox News has learned.
Buttigieg’s withdrawal comes just days before 14 states are set to head to the polls on Super Tuesday, where one-third of all delegates for the Democratic nomination will be at stake. His exit will likely harm frontrunner Bernie Sanders by providing a coalescing boost to more moderate candidates, as Buttigieg had gone on the offensive against Sanders and sought to appeal to the centrist base of the Democratic Party.
A senior campaign aide told Fox News the decision was “absolutely not” because of Buttigieg’s failure to reach his Super Tuesday fundraising goal of $13 million. The campaign announced Sunday that it needed another $1.6 million to reach that target.
“Pete believes this is the right thing to do for our country, for our party and for Americans across the country eager to heal our divided nation, defeat this president and work to fix our broken politics,” the aide said.
Hours earlier, speaking to NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Buttigieg vowed that “we’ll be assessing at every turn not only what the right answer is for the campaign, but making sure that every step we take is in the best interest of the party and that goal of making sure we defeat Donald Trump — because our country can’t take four more years of this.”
Buttigieg narrowly defeated rival Bernie Sanders by delegate count in Iowa, but has since suffered a string of defeats culminating in his drubbing in South Carolina on Saturday, where he finished fourth, behind billionaire Tom Steyer.
President Trump, meanwhile, repeatedly derided what he called Buttigieg’s resemblance to the pathetic cartoon character Alfred E. Neuman from Mad magazine.
The former South Bend, Ind. mayor has limited political experience, but sought to build his campaign on his military service and the possibility that he could become the first openly gay president.
Buttigieg struggled winning over black voters in particular. During a visit to Allendale County in South Carolina in December, he remarked, “I know that as somebody who’s new on the scene, I’ve got to earn that trust and we’ve got to have those conversations.”
He received only nine votes on Saturday in the county, compared to Joe Biden’s 552, Tom Steyer’s 241, Sanders’ 119 and Elizabeth Warren’s 17.
Commentators generally agree now that the Democratic nomination is increasingly likely to come down to a race between Biden, who won by a large margin in South Carolina, and Sanders, who secured the popular vote in Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire.
However, in a memo on Sunday, Warren’s campaign said there would likely be a contested convention — and promised to make a “final play” for the nomination there.
“After Wisconsin, nearly one-third of the pledged delegates will still be waiting to be elected, and there will be a three-week gap between electing delegates for the first time since voting began,” Warren campaign chief Roger Lau wrote. “In the road to the nomination, the Wisconsin primary is halftime, and the convention in Milwaukee is the final play.”
Lau added: “Our grassroots campaign is built to compete in every state and territory and ultimately prevail at the national convention in Milwaukee.”
This is a developing story. Check back soon for updates.
Fox News’ Andres del Aguila, Peter Doocy, and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.