Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana who beat Bernie Sanders in Iowa, has withdrawn from the Democratic presidential race following his dismal performance in the South Carolina primary.
Mr Buttigieg, 38, an openly gay veteran, vaulted on to the national stage last year and pulled off a stunning victory in Iowa followed by a strong second in New Hampshire. But he struggled after the first two contests because of his inability to attract non-white voters. He failed to win any delegates in Nevada last week, and did even worse in South Carolina, which signalled that he would have struggled in the diverse states that vote on Super Tuesday.
His decision to abandon the race before the critical 14 states vote on Super Tuesday provides a big boost to Joe Biden, the former vice-president who won South Carolina, but was still facing an uphill struggle because of the big number of moderates in the field. His withdrawal may put pressure on some of the other candidates, and particularly Amy Klobuchar who has had even less success with non-white voters, to pull out of the race.
A Buttigieg campaign staffer confirmed to the Financial Times that the former mayor had told his aides that he would withdraw from the race. Mr Buttigieg held a conference call with his team on Sunday afternoon to announce his decision.
Mr Buttigieg had pitched himself as the younger moderate alternative to Mr Biden, a claim that he made even more strongly after he came well ahead of the former vice-president in both Iowa and New Hampshire. He also tried to sell himself as the best alternative to Bernie Sanders, the self-declared socialist who wants an economic revolution.
But Mr Buttigieg polled strongly in the overwhelmingly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire, his poor performance in Nevada with Hispanic and African American voters revealed a weakness in his campaign. He made a big effort to win black voters in South Carolina, but his campaign fell flat in the southern state, which rescued Mr Biden.
His poll numbers in the Super Tuesday states — 14 contests that will award one-third of the total delegates — were low enough that he was in danger of winning very few delegates. Staying in the race would have hurt Mr Biden, and made it more likely that Mr Sanders would head to the Democratic convention in Milwaukee in July with the biggest number of delegates, even if he did not have the 1,991 needed for outright victory.