In a speech at the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum in Washington, Chafee said that although he felt that he had a winning message, it was time to move on from the 2016 race. He becomes the second Democrat this week, following former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, to drop out.
“As you know, I have been campaigning on a platform of prosperity through peace,” Chafee said. “But after much thought I have decided to end my campaign for president today.”
Chafee’s campaign struggled to gain traction, as the 62-year-old former governor and senator from Rhode Island had trouble raising money and barely registered in most polls. When he announced plans to run over the summer, his platform was overshadowed by a quirky call for a switch to the metric system.
At last week’s Democratic presidential debate, Chafee was unable to command the stage and had difficulty making the case for his candidacy. An anti-war candidate who is interested in foreign affairs, he tried to criticize Hillary Rodham Clinton for her vote as a senator to authorize the war in Iraq.
Having raised only about $30,000, Chafee began to face questions about how long he could continue to run.
“You’re going to wind up looking silly if you keep going on like this,” Wolf Blitzer, the CNN anchor, said to him during an interview after the debate.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, thanked Chafee for his “remarkable public service” and called him a “class act.”
After his announcement, Chafee dedicated the rest of his speech to the importance of peace and women’s rights and said he would continue to support the party.
“We all know that the Republican agenda sets back women’s rights and I pledge all my energy toward a big 2016 victory for Democrats across the country,” he said.
Chafee’s exit further narrows a Democratic field led by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) that also includes former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.
Vice President Biden announced Wednesday that he would not make a late entry into the race, and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb dropped out of the Democratic race earlier this week, leaving open the possibility of an independent bid.
Clinton, Sanders, and O’Malley all addressed the same DNC forum in Washington later Friday morning.
Chafee was polling at less than 1 percent in recent national polls and averaging less than 1 percent in recent polls from Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two nominating states, according to Real Clear Politics.
Chafee, a former Republican, made a splash in the run-up to the launch of his bid, saying in an interview that Clinton’s 2002 Senate vote to authorize military action in Iraq should disqualify her from becoming commander in chief.