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Colorado’s Michael Bennet ends his presidential bid

Three senators remain in the Democratic primary

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet has ended his presidential campaign. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet has ended his presidential campaign. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After New Hampshire voters went to the polls, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet ended his bid for the Democratic nomination for president Tuesday evening, leaving three senators in the race.

“I wish all those candidates well that are going beyond New Hampshire,” Bennet said at an event with supporters as he announced he was ending his campaign. “I think it’s fitting for us to end the campaign tonight.”

“I want to make sure that our generation passes this democracy intact, at least, if not in better shape,” he said. “Our democracy is at risk.”

Bennet launched his presidential bid in May, shortly after announcing he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and undergoing surgery. He became the 21st Democrat to seek the nomination. 

As a moderate, policy-minded senator, he lacked the national profile to break through in a crowded Democratic field. He struggled to raise money and qualify for the most recent debates. By mid-December, his polling average was less than 1 point, according to RealClearPolitics

Shortly before Christmas, his campaign told supporters it needed to raise $700,000 to launch a paid media and organizing operation in New Hampshire, where he was concentrating most of his efforts.

The normally reserved Bennet made a splash at the beginning of 2019 with a speech on the Senate floor that went viral. He criticized Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, mocking his “crocodile tears” during the government shutdown. It became the second-most-viewed video across all C-SPAN digital platforms. Bennet sought to capitalize on the experience with a series of digital ads in the early primary states. 

Bennet used his own brush with cancer to connect with voters about the importance of universal health care. But unlike the other Democratic senators in the race, he did not support “Medicare for All.” He sponsored his own plan, known as Medicare X, which would allow Americans to buy into government-run insurance, and was also co-sponsored by some other presidential contenders. 

Despite his inability to register in the polls, Bennet wasn’t without strong defenders, such as former Bill Clinton adviser James Carville, whose support Bennet’s campaign touted. “He’s gonna succeed by his resolve, by his knowledge, by his depth, by his politeness, his humanity,” Carville said on the “2020 War Room” podcast. 

The former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, Bennet comes from an elite, well-connected family. His brother, James Bennet, is the editorial page editor for The New York Times.

He wasn’t the only Coloradan to run for president this year. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper, Bennet’s former boss when Hickenlooper was mayor of Denver, dropped out of the race in August and is now running against GOP Sen. Cory Gardner

Bennet was appointed to the Senate in 2009 to fill the vacancy left by Ken Salazar, who had joined president Barack Obama’s administration as Interior secretary. His toughest political fight was the 2010 Democratic primary against Andrew Romanoff, who’s running for the Democratic nomination for Senate again in 2020. With Obama’s backing, Bennet prevailed and won his first full term that fall. He served as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2014 and won reelection to the Senate in 2016.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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