Not a single Democratic candidate dropped out of the race after the Iowa caucuses — no doubt because of the messy result there. But the early states have now started to do their traditional job of winnowing the field. It just took the New Hampshire primary to get things going.
The first to go: Andrew Yang announced the end of his campaign as it became clear he was way behind in the early returns from New Hampshire. Yang probably never really had a chance to win the Democratic nomination: He had never served in an elected office (or even run for one), and unlike President Trump, Yang wasn’t famous from his business career. Voters’ priorities at the moment didn’t really suit the Yang campaign either — Democrats are desperate to find an “electable” candidate, and an Asian-American man who lives in New York City and campaigned on giving all Americans $12,000 a year as part of a universal basic income was probably not what they had in mind.
But Yang and his campaign made a lot more noise than most political observers, it’s safe to say, expected. He campaigned on issues, such as rising levels of automation, that other candidates largely ignored. He raised a decent amount of money, too. And he garnered more support, according to national polls, than a lot of other candidates. In December, for example, Yang qualified for a debate that Cory Booker failed to make — even though the New Jersey senator had been hyped as a potential president candidate for more than a decade.
Yang built an enthusiastic, if small, base of supporters. It’s hard to quantify, but it’s probably fair to say that Yang both increased the number of Americans who know about the idea of creating a universal basic income and the number of those that support the idea.
Still, it was clear that Yang didn’t have a path to victory. He never really consistently earned above 5 percent in national polls.
His departure from the race continues the whitening of the Democratic field, which has included four black candidates, two Asian-Americans and one Latino. Of that group, Yang was the only person to have qualified for the last presidential debate. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick are still in the race (more on Patrick in a moment), but they have little chance of winning and are long-shots to qualify for future debates. The focus on electability has probably hurt the minority candidates. (That term has basically come to mean who can appeal to white, working-class voters in states like Wisconsin.) And perhaps starting the campaign in overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire didn’t help them either.
But white or non-white, so many people ran for the Democratic nomination in 2020 that some of them were bound to fail. Twelve white men have also dropped out after gaining little traction.
I doubt Yang is done with politics, though. You could imagine him running for mayor of New York or perhaps governor. Or you could imagine him being nominated to a Cabinet post, such as Commerce Secretary. “We’ll be back,” the 45-year-old said in a Twitter post after the announcement that his campaign was over.
The other person who dropped out on Tuesday night, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, wasn’t as compelling a candidate as Yang. Bennet ran as a center-left alternative to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, emphasizing that Democrats needed to win over more swing voters — like many of the other 12 white men who have dropped out, he never managed to gain traction. Indeed, Bennet never really made any gains in national polls:
He qualified for the first two debates in the summer, when the polling and donor thresholds to get in were the most forgiving. But he struggled to attract donors, which made it tough to meet the donor requirement for the third debate in August, and he didn’t qualify for another debate all cycle. He essentially skipped Iowa to concentrate on New Hampshire — but got less than 1 percent of the vote in the Granite State.
Bennet didn’t necessarily do anything wrong — Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar simply gained more traction as center-left candidates.
There were also rumblings that former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick would leave the race. But he’s yet to make an announcement. In the meantime, best wishes to Yang and Bennet — you made it farther than a lot of other candidates, but the 2020 Democratic primary will move on without you.