Chafee bows out of presidential race, reducing Democratic field

Printed from:

WASHINGTON – Lincoln Chafee ended his Democratic presidential bid Friday after surveys and campaign finance reports showed the former Rhode Island governor failing to gain support either from voters or donors.

“As you know I have been campaigning on a platform of Prosperity Through Peace,” Chafee told a Democratic National Committee forum Friday morning, NBC News reported. “But after much thought, I have decided to end my campaign for president today.”

Chafee’s withdrawal follows the departure of Jim Webb, a former Virginia senator, on Tuesday and Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement Wednesday that he would stay out of the nomination battle. The remaining three Democratic contenders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley all plan to travel to Iowa for the state party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner, where they will make back-to-back appearances, NBC News reported.

“Obviously it’s a good week for Secretary Clinton,” Chafee said at the forum, according to the Associated Press. Clinton seemed to emerge unscathed Thursday from an 11-hour grilling before a congressional committee investigating the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attacks.

Chafee struggled to convince donors to back him, raising barely $11,000 in the last campaign reporting period, according to the Associated Press. By comparison, Republican Dr. Ben Carson, a political newcomer, brought in more than $20 million. Chafee also never climbed out of the margin of error range in voter surveys, sometimes falling below 1 percent.

“Thank you Democrats especially in New Hampshire and Iowa! I enjoyed meeting you! I learned a lot!” Chafee said Friday morning on Twitter. Chafee raised less than $40,000 overall from individuals and loaned his campaign almost $364,000, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Chafee, who represented Rhode Island as a Republican in the U.S. Senate but ran for governor as an independent in 2010, focused his presidential campaign on a theme of peace and inclusion. Yet during his speech announcing his candidacy he issued a call for the U.S. to convert to the metric system of measurement. The divergence from political issues led to some snickering, even from Ocean State Democrats.

“It looks like we can put our metric system converters away for a few years,’’ state Rep. Joseph McNamara, the chairman of the state Democratic Party, told the Providence Journal.

“I certainly give him credit for participating,’’ McNamara told the newspaper. But, he added, “as the governor would probably say, when the gains of his campaign are measured in centimeters and not kilometers maybe it’s time to re-evaluate.’’

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida congresswoman who leads the Democratic National Committee, complemented Chafee on his record in a statement on Twitter.

“As a governor and senator, Lincoln Chafee has been dedicated to serving this country,” she said. “All of us wish him the best in his next endeavors.”

Chafee was appointed to the Senate in 1999 to fill out the term of his father, John Chafee, who had died. He won a full term the next year but lost his 2006 primary race after voting against the Iraq war. He declared that the Republican Party had moved away from him when he became an independent. In 2013, after co-chairing President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, he registered as a Democrat. He decided not to seek reelection to the governor’s office in 2014.

Recalling Chafee’s decision to become a Democrat, Wasserman Schultz praised him at the women’s forum in Washington, AP reported.

“Let’s remember that that was a big deal,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Because when he joined our party, he made clear that his former party had left him.”

In his remarks at the event, Chafee echoed his campaign theme.

“I would like to take this opportunity one last time to advocate for a chance be given to peace,” AP reported. “I’m moving on now. It’s time to move on and support the party any way I can.”