Eric Swalwell is out: The 2020 Democratic field gets (slightly) smaller

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Rep. Eric Swalwell (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

And then there were 24.

Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) will reportedly drop out of the 2020 presidential race, concluding a campaign that had struggled to stand out in the crowded primary field, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

He will instead run for re-election in California’s 15th Congressional District based in East Bay.

The announcement comes less than a week after Swalwell abruptly cancelled five Independence Day-themed campaign events in New Hampshire, a crucial early primary state. 

The Californian struggled to attract national attention or popular support from the very beginning of his campaign, never polling above 1 percent and often failing to register at all in national polls.

Swalwell appeared on the second night of the Miami Democratic debates, notably admonishing frontrunner and former vice president Joe Biden to “pass the torch to a new generation of Americans” and attacking Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s handling of a police-involved shooting in South Bend. Ironically, Buttigieg had become a favorite of wealthy Bay Area donors while Swalwell remained obscure.

While the campaign’s finances have yet to be disclosed to the FEC, digital records show that the Swalwell campaign spent heavily on digital advertisements, spending nearly $109,000 on Facebook ads and $33,000 on Twitter ads. He had $1.7 million left over from his 2018 congressional race, a war chest far smaller than that of most of his Democratic rivals.

In the days following the debate, Swalwell was questioned by CNN anchor John Berman and attributed his polling woes to his lack of speaking time during the debate.

“Yeah, it’s early. You know, I got about four minutes total to talk. Others like the vice president and, you know, people who are polling higher right now talked for about 12 to 13 minutes.”

Swalwell’s campaign was centered around gun control. The candidate released a comprehensive eight-part plan to tackle gun violence in America, notably calling for a ban and buy-back of all semiautomatic weapons and increased regulations on gun manufacturers. Influential gun control groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America publicly applauded Swalwell for his positions on gun issues.

Swalwell appeared unlikely to qualify for the July Democratic debates, with Montana Governor Steve Bullock pushing him out of the final qualifying spot.

Swalwell had been open about retaining the option of returning to run for his current congressional seat, telling The Hill, “I hope to be part of the field as it shrinks. If I don’t, I’m going to be realistic about my options.” Unlike the governors and senators he ran against in the primary, Swalwell needed to drop out by December 2019 to mount a re-election bid.

He will be the presumptive frontrunner in the race and will face Republican entrepreneur Peter Yuan Liu and Democratic Hayward City Council member Aisha Wahab in California’s unique “top two” primary. Wahab had previously left open the future of her campaign open should Swalwell decide to seek re-election.

Note (7/8): Eric Swalwell confirmed his departure from the race in a press conference late Monday afternoon. He announced that he will indeed seek reelection for his House seat, saying, “Today ends our presidential campaign, but it is the beginning of an opportunity in Congress with a new perspective.”

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