Democrat Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur who created buzz for his presidential campaign by championing a universal basic income that would give every American adult $1,000 per month, suspended his 2020 bid on Tuesday. Shortly after, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet ended his long-shot presidential bid, failing to break out of a crowded Democratic field dominated by other moderate candidates, including Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar.
Yang spent most of January in the leadoff caucus state, including a 17-day bus tour during which he told voters his finish in Iowa would “shock the world.”
His national press secretary, Erick Sanchez, confirmed the decision. It came as he expected a poor performance in New Hampshire’s primary.
The 45-year-old was one of the breakout stars of the Democratic primary race, building a following that started largely online but expanded to give him enough donors and polling numbers to qualify for the first six debates.
He outlasted senators and governors, and after initially self-funding his campaign, he raised more money than most of his rivals, bringing in over $16 million in the final quarter of last year. It was a bigger haul than all but the top four candidates: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Yang grew his outsider candidacy by campaigning as a non-politician, someone who mixed unconventional campaign events — from bowling to ax throwing — with serious talk about the millions of jobs lost to automation and artificial intelligence and the dark outlook for American jobs and communities.
The graduate of Brown University and Columbia Law School gave campaign speeches full of statistics and studies that often resembled an economics seminar. His supporters, known as the Yang Gang, donned blue hats and pins with the word MATH — short for his slogan Make America Think Harder.
Yang promoted his signature issue of universal basic income, which he dubbed the “freedom dividend,” by announcing during a debate that he would choose individuals to receive the monthly $1,000 checks. The statement prompted questions about whether he was trying to buy votes, but also generated a buzz online and helped the campaign build a list of possible supporters.
His poll numbers were high enough, combined with his fundraising strength, to qualify for him for all of the 2019 debates, though he fell short of Democratic National Committee’s qualifications to participate in the January debate in Iowa. He qualified for the February debate in New Hampshire.
Bennet, 55, was a late entrant to the race who staked his bid largely on trying to win New Hampshire. He only formally announced his candidacy in late April, after completing treatment for prostate cancer. He was the seventh senator and second white Colorado moderate to join the field, which made it difficult for him to stand out.
Bennet ran on a centrist platform and made a point of bucking the trend among some candidates for splashy, liberal proposals. Instead of embracing “Medicare for All” and free college, Bennet ran on what he called his “Real Deal” platform of more modest but still ambitious goals. Those included annual payments of at least $3,000 to families with children under age 18, allowing people to buy into an expanded form of Medicare and a $1 trillion housing affordability plan.
But while his articulate and passionate centrism won plaudits from pundits and experienced Democratic professionals, Bennet struggled to register in the polls and he hovered in the bottom tier of the field even as he campaigned more in New Hampshire than other candidates, with 50 town halls in the final ten weeks.. After July, Bennet never polled high enough or raised enough money to qualify for the debate stage again.
The main obstacle to Bennet was Biden, who as the moderate with establishment backing took up the space that the Colorado senator’s campaign was counting on. Bennet’s late entry also hobbled him. Because of his cancer diagnosis, he had to delay his candidacy, and he barely qualified for the first presidential debate. Bennet quickly began pushing back against the Democratic National Committee’s increasingly stringent debate qualification rules, complaining it was an unfair advantage for the staples of cable television who had been campaigning months, or even years, earlier.
In the end he staked his bet on the path blazed by his political mentor, former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, who scored a surprise win in New Hampshire in the 1984 Democratic presidential primary and almost won the nomination. Bennet pledged to hold 50 town halls in New Hampshire during the final weeks of the campaign and spent almost every spare moment there.
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