In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well under way.
Soon after midnight on Sunday morning, Pete Buttigieg convened his senior advisers on a conference call. Sitting in a car after flying to Georgia from his last rally in Raleigh, N.C., Buttigieg told them the campaign was over.
Buttigieg’s staff had just briefed top donors two days earlier about his plans to push forward in the presidential race, looking deep into the March primary calendar for friendly Midwestern states. But in the hours between those two calls, Buttigieg’s disappointing fourth-place finish in South Carolina’s primary — and Joe Biden’s stronger-than-expected win there — squeezed the delegate math of the 2020 race.
The narrow path forward the candidate saw days earlier had all but disappeared, and he knew it, according to a senior Buttigieg source who described his thinking. “The turning point was South Carolina,” said another person close to the Buttigieg campaign.Reid Epstein and Trip Gabriel at NYT:
On a conference call with campaign donors on Sunday evening, Mr. Buttigieg said he had reached the decision with regret but concluded it was “the right thing to do, when we looked at the math,” according to one person on the call. Without mentioning opponents by name, Mr. Buttigieg said he was concerned about the impact he would have on the race by staying in, saying Democrats needed to field “the right kind of nominee” against Mr. Trump.
Mr. Buttigieg talked with Mr. Biden and former President Barack Obama on Sunday night, according to a Democratic official familiar with the conversations. Mr. Biden asked for Mr. Buttigieg’s support and the former mayor indicated he would consider the request. Mr. Buttigieg wants to sleep on the decision, he told aides, some of whom believe he should move quickly to endorse Mr. Biden.
Mr. Obama did not specifically encourage Mr. Buttigieg to endorse Mr. Biden, said the official, who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations. But Mr. Obama did note that Mr. Buttigieg has considerable leverage at the moment and should think about how best to use it. Should Mr. Buttigieg endorse Mr. Biden on Monday, it could reshape the Democratic primary if many of his supporters shift to Mr. Biden, creating a more formidable centrist challenge to Mr. Sanders’s progressive movement.
In his remarks, Mr. Buttigieg directed criticism toward Mr. Sanders, without naming him, that he has previously made on the debate stage and on the campaign trail.
“We need leadership to heal a divided nation, not drive us further apart,” he said. “We need a broad based agenda to truly deliver for the American people, not one that gets lost in ideology. We need an approach strong enough not only to win the White House, but hold the House, win the Senate and send Mitch McConnell into retirement.”