Democratic presidential hopeful Julian Castro has announced he is ending his campaign for the White House.
Barack Obama’s ex-housing secretary, who was the only Latino in the race, said in a tweet: “I’ve determined that it simply isn’t our time.”
“I’m not done fighting,” the 45 year old added. His exit leaves 14 Democrats campaigning for this year’s presidential election.
The White House race begins in earnest next month with the Iowa caucuses.
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The remaining Democrats will battle it out in a series of state-by-state votes nationwide before the eventual winner is crowned at the party convention in July. He or she is expected to face President Donald Trump, a Republican, in November’s presidential election.
The grandson of a Mexican immigrant, Mr Castro had struggled to raise money for what was seen as a long-shot bid.
He ran as a proud and passionate liberal, advocating for the decriminalisation of border crossings by undocumented migrants into the United States.
In September, he was accused of tossing an ageist gibe at Democratic front-runner Joe Biden during a televised debate in Texas when he accused the 77-year-old former US vice-president of being forgetful.
Mr Castro’s former Democratic rivals tweeted magnanimous messages for him on Thursday, including Mr Biden. He praised the “grace and heart” of his onetime antagonist’s campaign.
Another rising star eclipsed
A decade ago Julian Castro was a rising Democratic star. A recently elected mayor of San Antonio, he would go on to be a cabinet secretary and seemed destined to be a leader reflecting the party’s growing Hispanic base.
He never quite lived up to that potential. His public appearances tended to be dull, and his tenure in the Obama administration was unremarkable. By the time he threw his hat into the 2020 presidential ring, he was considered an afterthought, eclipsed by new “rising stars” like fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke.
Over the course of his campaign, however, Mr Castro turned a few heads. During the debates, he was sharp, even getting the better of Mr O’Rourke in an early exchange on immigration. He may have hurt his chances by suggesting former Vice-President Joe Biden’s memory was failing, but his willingness to attack helped dispel his image as a milquetoast politician.
None of this translated into actual support in the opinion polls, of course. But while other candidates may have damaged their reputations by underperforming, Mr Castro has put his name back in the mix – as a vice-presidential choice or, at least, a sharp-elbowed ally for whoever wins the Democratic nomination.
Most of the Democratic candidates are male and white, which is provoking online criticism for a party that prides itself on diversity.
Asian-American Andrew Yang was the only minority candidate to appear beside six others in the most recent TV debate last month.
Two other remaining candidates are African-American – Cory Booker and Deval Patrick – though they are polling near the bottom of the field.
Mr Castro’s exit comes on the day that leading Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders’ campaign announced it had raised $34.5m (£26.2m) since he suffered a heart attack in October.
The haul surpasses Mr Sanders’ previous quarterly totals and was the highest of any Democrat in this election cycle.
But the Vermont senator and self-described democratic socialist’s war chest was eclipsed by Mr Trump, whose campaign said it drew in $46m, smashing its previous 2020 quarterly fundraising record.
In addition to the latest totals, the Sanders campaign announced on Thursday that more than five million individual people had donated.
His best month was December when 1.8m donations were made, with an average amount of $18.53.
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Mr Biden announced on Thursday his campaign had raised $22.7m in the previous three months, marking it his best quarter so far.
Another Democratic front-runner, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, has not yet reported her fundraising totals.
The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, who has soared from relative anonymity to become one of the party’s brightest stars, pulled in $24.7m in the last quarter.
Mr Yang – a quirky entrepreneur who has never held political office – raised an impressive $16.5m in the past three months.
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