WASHINGTON — Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke announced Friday that he is ending his 2020 presidential campaign, hours ahead of a marquee dinner in Iowa.
O’Rourke told supporters in an email that he will not run for office next year. That means he will also not become a Senate candidate in Texas, despite pleas from some Democrats for him to take on Republican Sen. John Cornyn.
“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 said in a statement.
“My service to the country will not be as a candidate or as the nominee. 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 led an all-staff call Friday afternoon, informing aides of his decision to drop out — a choice that came as a surprise to many of his staff in early-voting states.
O’Rourke’s poor fundraising played a key role in his decision to exit the presidential race, aides familiar with his decision to drop out said.
His top advisers had concluded that his current fundraising pace meant he’d have to slash spending — likely meaning major staff cuts — in order to pay for the advertising he’d need to get the small boost he needed to qualify for the debate stage in November. O’Rourke raised just $4.5 million in 2019’s third quarter and ended it with just $3 million cash on hand.
O’Rourke’s recent fundraising emails have hinted at this possibility. One sent Wednesday said raising money was critical to “making sure we don’t have to slash funds from our organizing teams or early state ads (these programs are critical to building our momentum on the ground).”
O’Rourke’s campaign changed gears drastically in August, following the mass shooting that left 22 dead at a Walmart in his hometown of El Paso.
O’Rourke paused his campaign for nearly two weeks, and then returned as a strident advocate for gun control measures — including mandatory buy-backs of assault-style rifles. He made waves in a debate by saying, “hell yes,” he would take away Americans’ AK-47s and AR-15s.
His position led to criticism from Democrats in Washington, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. But it also injected energy — and a central cause — into O’Rourke’s flagging campaign.
Still, that momentum wasn’t enough to carry O’Rourke in a crowded Democratic field, with voters already narrowing their lists of candidates to consider.