Steve Bullock drops out of Democratic presidential race

The two-term governor of Montana fell short of qualification requirements for multiple debates and failed to gain traction in polling.

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By Vaughn Hillyard and Amanda Golden

Democratic presidential candidate Steve Bullock, the two-term governor of Montana, dropped out of the presidential race Monday after falling short of qualification requirements for multiple debates and failing to collect notable support in polling.

“While there were many obstacles we could not have anticipated when entering this race, it has become clear that in this moment, I won’t be able to break through to the top tier of this still-crowded field of candidates,” Bullock said in a statement.

He was the second candidate to drop out in two days. Joe Sestak, a former U.S. representative from Pennsylvania, ended his campaign Sunday.

Bullock, 53, touted himself as the only candidate to have won in 2016 — in his re-election effort for governor — in a state where Donald Trump also claimed victory. But that message was largely overtaken by candidates like Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who has tried to claim the mantle as a more moderate figure from a red state.

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Bullock often warned voters on the trail about the elimination of Americans’ private health insurance but strayed from taking direct swipes at the other Democratic contenders. He did, however, question Buttigieg’s candidacy last month while talking to reporters in Iowa.

“He got 9,000 votes in a college town that last voted for a Republican for mayor in 1964," Bullock said. "So from the perspective of being able to win back those places that we lost, I don’t think that he has it.”

Bullock will not run for Montana’s U.S. Senate seat up for grabs in 2020, said Galia Slayen, the campaign’s communications director. He has one year remaining in his term as governor.

On Monday, his campaign gave no indication of his future political intentions, though he is not expected to immediately endorse another presidential candidate in the race.

The Montana governor did not enter the crowded Democratic field until mid-May after the conclusion of his state legislature’s session and failed to qualify for the first presidential debate. He told NBC at the time that he felt “penalized” by the Democratic National Committee for focusing on shepherding the reauthorization of Medicaid expansion in his state instead of announcing his bid early in the winter or spring when other contenders opted in.

“If I had to decide between campaigning for 100,000 donors or getting 100,000 people health care, that’s the easiest decision I’ve ever had to make,” Bullock said at the time.

He went on to qualify for the party’s second presidential debate, but his performance and campaigning in early states never shaped him into a formidable contender among a crowded field.

“I entered this race as a voice to win back the places we lost, bridge divides and rid our system of the corrupting influence of Dark Money,” Bullock said in the statement announcing his departure from the race. “While the concerns that propelled me to enter in the first place have not changed, I leave this race filled with gratitude and optimism, inspired and energized by the good people I’ve had the privilege of meeting over the course of the campaign.”