California Rep. Eric Swalwell on Monday dropped out of the race for his party’s presidential nomination, becoming the first of what’s expected to be many Democrats to give up their presidential aspirations as the crowded field winnows down.
Swalwell, who in recent polls failed to garner even one percent among primary and caucus voters, said he was abandoning his presidential run in favor of focusing on getting reelected to House of Representatives.
“Being honest with ourselves, we had to look at how much money we were raising and where we were in the polls,” Swalwell said during a news conference at a union hall in Dublin, Calif. “We have to be honest about our candidacy.”
He added: “Today ends our presidential campaign, but it is the beginning of a new opportunity in Congress.”
Swalwell did not endorse any of his former primary rivals, saying only that he is impressed with the experience of the field.
“If Megan Rapinoe gets in the race, I’ll probably endorse her,” Swalwell said jokingly, in reference to the U.S. Women’s National Team soccer star.
Swalwell, who launched his campaign for the presidency just three months ago, focused much of his campaign on combatting gun violence. He supported a ban assault rifles and starting a mandatory buyback program.
“Keep your pistols, keep your rifles, keep your shotguns,” he said on the debate stage last month, “but we can take the most dangerous weapons from the most dangerous people.”
His proposals drew the support of two leading Democrats in former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who both voiced their support Monday to his anti-gun work shortly after Swalwell dropped out of the race.
Swallwell had a standout moment during the Democrats’ first debates when the 38-year-old lawmaker recalled being only 6 years old when he saw Biden speak — saying the former senator and vice president was “right when he said it was time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans.”
Biden retorted, “I’m still holding onto that torch.”
Speculation started to mount about Swalwell’s departure from the primary after he canceled his Independence Day events in the key early voting state of New Hampshire last week.
Swalwell’s exit left 24 Democrats still vying for their party’s presidential nomination, although that number was expected to drop as the next debate looms on July 20. That debate is set to include only 20 candidates who have either hit 1 percent in three qualifying polls or have snagged 65,000 donors.
So far 21 candidates have hit those marks, so the Democratic National Committee will prioritize candidates who hit both the polling and financial thresholds, followed by candidates who only have the polling benchmark – sorted by poll average – and finally, candidates who have hit only the donor mark.
According to the most recent polls, Biden still held a commanding lead in the race for the Democratic nomination, but Harris has seen her standings skyrocket to second place after a strong debate performance. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., were the only other candidates to poll in the double-digits.