'Mayor Pete' Departs: Buttigieg To Suspend Presidential Campaign

Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a campaign event on Feb. 1 in Dubuque, Iowa, ahead of the caucuses.
Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a campaign event on Feb. 1 in Dubuque, Iowa, ahead of the caucuses.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Updated at 7:22 p.m. ET

Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old who rose from being mayor of a midsize Indiana city to mounting a serious presidential run, is set to suspend his bid for the White House, a senior campaign aide confirms to NPR.

Buttigieg, an openly gay Navy Reserve veteran, will suspend his campaign in a speech Sunday night back in his hometown of South Bend, Ind., the aide says.

Buttigieg is set to depart the Democratic race third in overall delegates, behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden.

The announcement comes a day after Buttigieg finished fourth in South Carolina's Democratic primary, the party's fourth nominating contest. Buttigieg had finished in a virtual tie in Iowa's caucuses, then second in New Hampshire and third in Nevada.

Iowa and New Hampshire are predominately white states, but Buttigieg struggled to attract support in the more diverse states of Nevada and South Carolina. According to exit polls, he earned the backing of just 3% of African American voters in South Carolina; black voters made up a majority of the Democratic electorate.

Buttigieg included the pronouncer "Boot-Edge-Edge" in his Twitter bio for his complicated name, and was known colloquially as "Mayor Pete." He was one of the youngest Democratic candidates seeking the nomination and the first openly gay candidate to mount a major campaign for the presidency.

A graduate of Harvard and Oxford and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Buttigieg spent eight years in office in South Bend, and gained national recognition in 2017 during an unsuccessful bid to serve as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

When he first announced his candidacy for president last year, Buttigieg was perceived as a little-known long shot focused on what he calls "inter-generational justice," but he quickly emerged among the front-runners in the crowded Democratic field with his moderate, future-focused message.

An adept debater, Buttigieg often clashed onstage with Sanders and fellow progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and criticized their sweeping "Medicare for all" health care proposals. Buttigieg also warned that Sanders' self-avowed democratic socialism would harm Democrats down ballot.

But Buttigieg was dogged by questions about his handling of high-profile racial incidents involving the police during his tenure as mayor. He also faced scrutiny over his brief tenure at the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, prompting his release of a list of nine of his former clients. And fellow candidates pressured him to open his fundraisers to reporters and provide more information about the people raising money for his presidential campaign.

But before that, speaking to NPR's Steve Inskeep in January 2019, he said he understood his campaign was an "underdog project."

"But I also don't think that you should ever run for any office that you do not seek to win," he said.

Buttigieg's departure will leave six candidates in the race, after billionaire Tom Steyer ended his bid on Saturday night. The youngest male candidate is now 77-year-old former Vice President Joe Biden.

With additional reporting by NPR's Asma Khalid

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