Former Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke (D-TX) announced Friday evening that he is dropping out of the 2020 presidential race.
“Though it is difficult to accept, it is clear to me now that this campaign does not have the means to move forward successfully. My service to the country will not be as a candidate or as the nominee,” O’Rourke said in a statement posted to Medium. “Acknowledging this now is in the best interests of those in the campaign; it is in the best interests of this party as we seek to unify around a nominee; and it is in the best interests of the country.”
“Let us continue to fearlessly champion the issues and causes that brought us together. Whether it is ending the epidemic of gun violence or dismantling structural racism or successfully confronting climate change before it is too late, we will continue to organize and mobilize and act in the best interests of America,” the Texas Democrat added. “I’m confident I will see you down the road, and I look forward to that day.”
The New York Times, citing an unnamed source close to O’Rourke, reported that the former White House contender arrived at his decision to exit the crowded race during the middle of the week and is unlikely to run for the U.S. Senate in Texas against incumbent Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
O’Rourke’s announcement comes on the eve of Iowa’s famous Liberty and Justice celebration, formerly the Jefferson Jackson dinner, where 2020 Democrats will flock to deliver speeches, meet voters, and huddle with donors.
O’Rourke was encouraged to run for the White House following his failed Senate challenge to incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) last year. O’Rourke, who raised $80 million for his Senate campaign, the largest amount ever by a Senate candidate, lost to Cruz by three percentage points.
But O’Rourke struggled to replicate that model in the presidential primary and both his polling and his fundraising dwindled significantly in recent months.
He qualified for all four debates held prior to his departure, but had yet to secure a spot in the November 20 debate because he hadn’t reached 3 percent or more in four polls or 5 percent or more in two polls.
In recent weeks, O’Rourke’s campaign was beset by lagging fundraising, reporting $4.5 million in the third quarter. It was an improvement over the previous quarter, and enough to qualify for the fifth debate, but the total put him behind a majority of his rivals, two of whom raised about $25 million in the same time period.
“We have a path to the nomination — and through that, a path to the presidency — but at this moment we’ve got to break through,” O’Rourke told his El Paso, Texas, staff after releasing the figures. “So I need everyone’s help, doing everything that they can … to make sure that you make this commitment now. There is no later moment to do it. It must happen now if we’re going to make the most of this moment, of the momentum that we have, of this wonderful trajectory that we’re on.”
During the course of his campaign, O’Rourke was met with blowback from Republicans and Democrats for calling for the forcible confiscation of AR-15 and military-style rifles. “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” O’Rourke said during the third Democrat presidential primary debate, before adding, “We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.”
He also came under fire for warning religious institutions that they would lose their tax-exempt status under his presidency if they do not agree with same-sex marriage.
“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights, and the full civil rights of every single one of us. And so as president, we’re going to make that a priority, and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon human rights,” he told CNN anchor Don Lemon during an LGBTQ-focused town hall hosted by the network last month.
O’Rourke said he plans to support whichever Democraticandidate receives the nomination.
“We must support them in the race against Donald Trump and support them in their administration afterwards, do all that we can to help them heal a wounded country and bring us together in meeting the greatest set of challenges we have ever known,” he said.
President Trump mocked O’Rourke’s announcement by quoting the Texas Democrat’s now-infamous Vanity Fair interview in which he said that he was “born to be in it,” a reference to this cycle’s presidential race.
“Oh no, Beto just dropped out of race for President despite him saying he was “born for this.” I don’t think so!” the president tweeted.
Oh no, Beto just dropped out of race for President despite him saying he was “born for this.” I don’t think so!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2019
The UPI contributed to this report.