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Pete Buttigieg. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg announced in a speech in his hometown of South Bend, Indiana, Sunday night that he is suspending his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The big picture: The 38-year-old, gay, former small-town mayor ran a historic campaign and shocked the political world by surging to the top of the Democratic field and winning the Iowa caucuses in January. But his inability to gain traction with black voters, as exemplified by his poor showing in Saturday's South Carolina primary, called into question the long-term viability of his campaign.

  • Buttigieg was third in the field in terms of pledged delegates, winning 26 across Iowa (14), New Hampshire (9) and Nevada (3). He did not finish above the necessary 15% threshold to win delegates in South Carolina.

What they're saying: "At this point in the race, the best way to keep faith with those goals and ideals is to step aside and help bring our party and our country together, so tonight I am making the difficult decision to suspend my campaign for the presidency," Buttigieg said in his South Bend speech.

  • "I will do everything in my power to ensure that we have a new Democratic president come January."

Between the lines: It's not yet clear which candidate will benefit from Buttigieg's exit. He was widely perceived as sharing a moderate ideological lane with Joe Biden, the winner of the South Carolina primary, but a recent Morning Consult poll showed a tight race for second-choice among Buttigieg supporters.

  • Bernie Sanders: 21%
  • Joe Biden/Elizabeth Warren: 19%
  • Michael Bloomberg: 17%

There is speculation that Buttigieg will make a formal endorsement now that he's out of the race. Buttigieg and Biden have "exchanged voicemails" since the news broke of him suspending his campaign, according to a source familiar with the situation.

  • On the night of the Nevada caucuses, Buttigieg criticized Sanders — who came in first — for what he characterized as exclusionary politics.
  • "I believe the best way to defeat Donald Trump ... is to broaden and galvanize the majority that supports us on critical issues," Buttigieg said. "Sen. Sanders believes in an inflexible, ideological revolution that leaves out most Democrats, not to mention most Americans."

The bottom line: Buttigieg was the first openly gay major presidential candidate in U.S. history, and he'll be a player in Democratic politics for a long time to come. With Sen. Bernie Sanders threatening to run away with the nomination on Super Tuesday, the former mayor's exit could significantly shake up the dynamics of the race.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

Go deeper

Virginia attorney general fires Jan. 6 investigator from university post

McIntire Amphitheater at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Robert Knopes/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The lead investigator for the Jan. 6 House select committee investigating the Capitol riot has been fired from his position as the University of Virginia's counsel by the state's new Republican attorney general, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Democrats say the removal of Tim Heaphy from his post after some three years while he's on leave from the university to investigate the insurrection is likely "retribution" for the House probe — an accusation strongly denied by the office of state Attorney General Jason Miyares (R).

4 hours ago - World

Taiwan's military scrambles jets after detecting 39 Chinese warplanes

J-20 stealth fighter jets in Zhuhai in the Guangdong Province of China last year. Photo: Chen Jimin/China News Service via Getty Images

Taiwan's defense force said 39 Chinese warplanes flew into its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on Sunday.

Why it matters: The largest Chinese air force incursion into the zone since October came a day after the U.S. and Japanese navies conducted a joint exercise in the Philippine Sea.

6 hours ago - Sports

Gonzaga University revokes NBA great John Stockton's tickets over mask stance

Former Utah Jazz player John Stockton during a 2017 press conference in Salt Lake City. Photo: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Gonzaga University suspended the season tickets of notable alumni John Stockton after the NBA Hall of Famer failed to comply with the school's basketball games mask mandate, the Spokesman-Review first reported.

Driving the news: "Basically, it came down to, they were asking me to wear a mask to the games and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit," the former Utah Jazz point guard told the outlet in an interview Saturday.