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Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke Ends Presidential Bid

Updated at 6:10 p.m. ET

Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke ended his presidential campaign on Friday after struggling to translate the energy from his 2018 Senate bid into a successful White House campaign.

"Our campaign has been about seeing clearly, speaking honestly and acting decisively in the best interests of America," O'Rourke wrote in a statement on Medium.

"Though it is difficult to accept, it is clear to me now that this campaign does not have the means to move forward successfully. My service to the country will not be as a candidate or as the nominee. Acknowledging this now is in the best interests of those in the campaign; it is in the best interests of this party as we seek to unify around a nominee; and it is in the best interests of the country."

O'Rourke was not likely to make this month's debate stage or qualify for future debates. The former three-term congressman had a highly anticipated entrance into the race in March, just months after he came within fewer than three points of knocking off Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in what had been a solidly red state. He attracted top-level staff and initially posted strong fundraising totals, but in recent months, he had cratered in polls and money.

He tried to reboot his campaign in the wake of a deadly August mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas. He tried to run a more national campaign that he promised would be "taking the fight to Donald Trump," whom he called "the greatest threat to this country, bar none."

Beto 2.0 focused heavily on gun control — including a mandatory gun buyback of assault-style weapons. That controversial position drew rebuke from many in the field, as did comments that churches that oppose LGBTQ rights should lose their tax-exempt status.

But those issues failed to ignite any real movement in the race. He now becomes the eighth candidate to end his or her campaign, leaving 17 Democratic hopefuls still in the race.

The once rising star's endorsement could still be sought after though. In his exit post, O'Rourke says, "He will work to ensure that the Democratic nominee is successful in defeating Donald Trump in 2020. I can tell you firsthand from having the chance to know the candidates, we will be well served by any one of them, and I'm going to be proud to support whoever that nominee is."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.