After finishing fourth in the South Carolina primary, Buttigieg came home to South Bend to an emotional and loud crowd to make his announcement Sunday night.
He did not throw his support behind any other candidate, but instead called for unity in the party moving forward.
“I will no longer seek to be the 2020 Democratic nominee for president, but I will do everything in my power to ensure that we have a new Democratic president come January,” Buttigieg says.
At the announcement South Bend resident Tracey Thomas, and many others, said the announcement was a loss.
“As he was speaking up there, I was suddenly really struck. A really capable, talented, thoughtful, dedicated candidate has dropped out of the race and it’s heartbreaking really,” Thomas says.
Buttigieg says he doesn’t want to further divide the Democratic Party and hurt the chances of a nominee defeating President Donald Trump.
“We have a responsibility to consider the effect of remaining in this race any further. Our goal has always been to help unify Americans to defeat Donald Trump and win the era for our values,” Buttigieg says.
At the beginning of Buttigieg’s candidacy, few thought he would get very far. He harkened back to those days in his speech.
“We began this unlikely journey with a staff of four in a cramped office right here in South Bend Indiana, right down Washington Street,” Buttigieg says. “No big email list, no personal fortune. Hardly anybody knew my name and even fewer could pronounce it. But South Bend showed everybody what to do: first name ‘Mayor,’ last name ‘Pete,’ so nobody got confused.”
South Bend resident Braedon Troy says he was proud Buttigieg raised the profile of the city.
“It’s incredible to see just where he’s came from. The amount of people who knew who Pete Buttigieg was, was very little,” Troy says. “There were people in this city who didn’t even know who he was. And for him to now be a national figure really puts South Bend on the map.”
Introducing his husband, Chasten Buttigieg called his candidacy an act of hope. Pete Buttigieg was the first openly gay candidate to make a serious run for a major party’s presidential nomination.
“This campaign was built on an idea of hope. An idea of inclusion. An idea of addition, instead of subtraction. About bringing people together. About looking your neighbor in the eye and saying maybe we don’t agree on everything, but let’s agree on this,” Chasten Buttigieg says.
Chasten Buttigieg became emotional recalling when his husband first asked him about running for president.
“After falling in love with Pete, Pete got me to believe in myself again,” Chasten Buttieg said, his voice breaking with emotion as the crowd cheered. “And I told Pete to run because I knew there were other kids sitting out there in this country who needed to believe in themselves too.”
Buttigeig struggled through the race to gain traction among voters of color.
Notre Dame Student Rory Jasper was in the crowd Sunday, though he says he’s a supporter of former Vice President Joe Biden. He says Buttigieg’s lack of support with black voters became clear this weekend.
“South Carolina is 66 percent black voters and they just didn’t feel comfortable,” Jasper says. “I watched the debates and I think he just didn’t take ownership of it, and even if he did take ownership of it, he kind of made an excuse.”
Before Buttigieg’s announcement, other presidential candidates tweeted supportive messages for the Navy Reserve veteran. Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody echoed some of those sentiments.
“To say we are proud doesn’t do the effort he and his team made justice,” Zody said in a statement. “He has our everlasting gratitude for a race well run, and for the way he represented Hoosiers on the campaign trail.”
For those in South Bend, it was a foregone conclusion that Buttigieg would seek national office. The crowd chanted “2024” after the announcement, expressing the hope that the 38-year-old would run again.
“He’s an amazing person as a neighbor, as a human, as a leader, as an orator, as a thoughtful person,” says Dierde Mylod who lives down the street from Buttigieg. “I hope he’ll be doing lots of things in the future but I have no idea what those will be.”
The next hurdle for Democratic presidential nominees comes in just a few days on March 3, Super Tuesday – 14 states and one territory will host nominating contests for president.
Indiana Public Broadcasting's Justin Hicks contributed to this story.