Billionaire businessman and liberal activist Tom Steyer, who poured millions into a bid for the White House despite initially saying he would not seek the Democratic Party’s nomination in 2020, has ended his presidential bid.
Running a campaign centered on rooting out corporate influence over American politics, and combatting the challenge of climate change, Steyer spent over $150 million of his own money on television advertisements to boost his name recognition and get himself in front of voters in the four early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
But after disappointing finishes in the first three nominating contests, in which he finished no higher than fifth place, and despite an improved showing in the South Carolina primary, Steyer told supporters that he is ending his bid for the presidency.
“I said if I didn’t see a path to winning, that I’d suspend campaign,” Steyer told supporters in South Carolina on Saturday night. “And honestly, I can’t see a path where I can win the presidency. So am I going to continue to work on every single one of these issues? Yes, of course I am, because I’ve never stopped.”
Throughout his candidacy Steyer also touted the work he did with the two major political organizations he founded: NextGen America, which focused on voter participation, and NeedtoImpeach, a group solely focused on advocating for President Donald Trump’s impeachment and removal from office.
“If you look at my history for the last decade, when I think there’s something really wrong, in the United States of America, I organize around it, I put my time, effort, heart and soul into it, and I spend money on it,” Steyer told reporters during a campaign stop in South Carolina in December.
Steyer acknowledged his desire to see Trump beat in November, even on the outside of the race, and took a shot at the state’s GOP senator.
“Every Democrat is a million times better than Trump. Trump is a disaster,” he told supporters Saturday. “And let me say this: I mean, we’re in South Carolina; Lindsey Graham’s a disaster. He’s a disaster for the people here. So, of course I’ll be working on that.”
While his early efforts did earn him a spot on several of the Democratic National Committee’s organized debates, Steyer was ultimately unable to generate enough support to in the early contests to viably fight for the nomination.
Throughout the campaign, Steyer faced persistent questions about whether or not a billionaire should be able to spend so heavily when other campaigns have to run more traditional operations to generate grassroots support. He defended his position, arguing that what matters is a candidate’s message, and that he spent ample time in the early states talking to voters in addition to his large advertising buys.
“This is not an election, it’s a series of elections … and I’ve been spending my time in the early primary states, not nationally,” Steyer said during an appearance on ABC News’ ‘The View’ in December.
After spending several years in the late 1970s and early 1980s at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs in New York, Steyer and financier Warren Hellman founded a San Francisco hedge fund, later named Farallon Capital, which grew from managing $15 million at the start to $20 billion today, and where he built his fortune by making high-risk investments in distressed assets.
He retired from the firm in 2012 and turned his attention to the environment and a host of liberal political issues in his home state of California.
Steyer has been criticized for making carbon-polluting investments during his time at Farallon — and then for not divesting of them fast enough
In an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl pressed Steyer on his past investments in fossil fuels despite championing himself as an advocate for combating climate change.
“In our business, we invested in every part of the economy, including fossil fuels. When I realized what a threat this was … to our environment, and to the people of the United States and people around the world. I changed, I divested from all of that stuff, I left my business, I took the giving pledge to give my money to good causes. And I’m asking every American to do exactly what I did,” Steyer said.
Steyer has also said he “deeply regret[s]” a $34 million investment in 2005 in a for-profit prisons firm called Corrections Corp. of America, which runs migrant detention centers on the U.S.-Mexico border, which came under sharp criticism by Democratic presidential candidates last year.
One constant source of interest throughout Steyer’s 2020 presidential bid was the fact that he wore the same plaid tie during campaign events and debate appearances, something that drew the attention of the co-hosts of ‘The View’ when he visited the show in December.
“Well first of all I have worn a red plaid tie for 20 years and people have explained to me for 20 years that I have no taste, and I wanted to go along with that,” Steyer joked at the time.