Beto O’Rourke, the former congressman from El Paso, Texas, announced on Friday that he’s withdrawing from the presidential race.
O’Rourke captivated party regulars only a year ago, coming within a few points of unseating Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the midterm election. That campaign was fueled by massive contributions from small-dollar donors. That strategy initially worked for O’Rourke’s presidential bid, which had buzz and fundraising momentum when he launched in March. But the enthusiasm quickly petered out, and O’Rourke struggled to raise money from more traditional sources.
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“Though it is difficult to accept, it is clear to me now that this campaign does not have the means to move forward successfully,” O’Rourke wrote on Medium. “My service to the country will not be as a candidate or as the nominee.”
O’Rourke’s campaign spent more than he collected in the third quarter — a discouraging sign at this stage — finishing with $3.2 million in the bank. He barely registered in early state polls, coming in around 1%, and had yet to qualify for the next Democratic debate later this month.
O’Rourke struggled initially to define his campaign, but found a sense of purpose following the mass shooting in El Paso on Aug. 3, in which 22 people — mostly Latino — were killed by a white supremacist. O’Rourke’s policy proposal — the banning of AR-15s and other assault weapons, accompanied by a mandatory buyback — stirred the hearts of some gun safety activists, while making others nervous that it might go too far. The proposal was deeply unpopular in Texas, potentially a fatal blow to his viability in any future run for statewide office.
In his farewell message, O’Rourke said he would support the Democratic nominee.
“Let us continue to fearlessly champion the issues and causes that brought us together,” he said. “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.”
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