A campaign that started out strong with comparisons to Bobby Kennedy, has now bit the dust.
Former Texas Democratic congressman Beto O’Rourke, announced Friday that he is withdrawing from the 2020 presidential race, telling supporters, “it is clear to me now that this campaign does not have the means to move forward successfully.”
O’Rourke entered the race in March to great fanfare, after nearly defeating Texas incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterms, but, he has struggled to gain traction in the massive Democratic primary field.
“My service to the country will not be as a candidate or as the nominee,” O’Rourke wrote in an online post. “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.”
O’Rourke was in Iowa, ahead of a planned appearance at an event in Des Moines, when he announced his exit from the race. After the news broke, an emotional O’Rourke addressed a group of supporters. “This has been the honor of my lifetime,” he told them. “I love you all and I know that I’ll be seeing you down the road.”
An O’Rourke spokesperson has confirmed to the press that he has ruled out running for the Senate next year, when Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is up for re-election.
O’Rourke sought to make gun control a top issue in his campaign, most notably after the Aug. 3 mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso. He went so far as to embrace the confiscation of certain firearms, memorably saying in a September debate, “Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15.”
The 47-year-old O’Rourke was urged to run for president by many Democrats who were energized by last year’s narrow Senate in reliably Republican Texas. He raised an astonishing amount of money from small donors across the country, visited every county in the Lone Star State and used social media and livestreaming video to engage directly with voters. He ultimately lost to Cruz by a mere three percentage points.
But O’Rourke struggled to replicate that model in the presidential primary and both his polling and his fundraising had dwindled significantly in recent months.
President Trump reacted to the news by tweeting Friday, “Oh no, Beto just dropped out of race for President despite him saying he was ‘born for this.’ I don’t think so!”