Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke on Friday dropped out of the Democratic presidential race.
His struggling campaign had experienced a small uptick in the polls in recent weeks, but it wasn’t enough to sustain his run.
Mr. O’Rourke thanked his supporters and volunteers in a tweet. He also vowed to get behind whoever is the party’s nominee to take on President Trump.
“Thank you for making this campaign possible, and for continuing to believe that we can turn this moment of great peril into a moment of great promise for America and the world,” he tweeted.
Mr. O’Rourke entered the race as a favorite of the new generation of Democratic leaders after mounting a strong challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in 2018.
He raised an impressive $6.1 million in the first 24 hours after announcing his presidential bid. But Mr. O’Rourke quickly squandered the promising launch by putting forward policy positions that were not fully thought out and delivering uneven performances on the stump.
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The drop-out announcement was a clear shock to Mr. O’Rourke’s backers at the Iowa Democratic Party & Justice Dinner in Des Moines, where he was scheduled to speak Friday and where his campaign volunteers got out early to plant “BETO” signs and line up on the street outside the annual gathering to boost his campaign.
Mr. O’Rourke canceled his speech at the dinner.
When Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez took the stage, he thanked Mr. O’Rourke for running and called on the crowd to give him a “special round of applause” for running a “spirited campaign.”
Mr. O’Rourke became the eighth major candidate to call it quits in a crowded Democratic race that still boasts at least 18 contenders.
Though he didn’t announce his future political plans, Mr. O’Rourke signaled that he wasn’t done fighting for his causes, including tougher gun control laws, which had become the focus of his presidential run after an August mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso.
“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, we will continue to organize and mobilize and act,” he tweeted.
Mr. O’Rourke will not jump into the 2020 Senate race in Texas, according to multiple reports.
The announcement of his exit was unexpected. He had recently pledged to remain in the Democratic presidential race. Just hours before the announcement, his campaign sent out an advisory that he would be making a swing through New Hampshire next week.
• Seth McLaughlin in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.