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Kirsten Gillibrand Just Dropped Out of the 2020 Presidential Race

“I know this isn’t the result we wanted — we wanted to win this race — but it’s important to know when it’s not your time."

by David Uberti and Cameron Joseph
Aug 28 2019, 9:42pm

This is a developing story please refresh for updates.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is officially out of the presidential race.

The New York Democrat shared the announcement on Twitter Wednesday after a last-ditch effort to qualify for the second round of primary debates fell short.

“I know this isn’t the result we wanted — we wanted to win this race — but it’s important to know when it’s not your time,” she said in a video posted to Twitter.

Gillibrand’s decision to drop out came after months of struggles to gain any traction in the crowded Democratic field — and huge last-minute expenditures to try to buy her the name recognition in the early-voting states necessary to qualify her to make the next debate. The Democratic National Committee’s cutoff for the Sept. 12 debate is midnight on Wednesday, and with just hours to go, Gillibrand had hit 2% in only one qualifying poll — three polls short of what she needed to get onstage in Houston.

Gillibrand is the fifth Democratic presidential contender to drop out in recent weeks, following Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D). More candidates may follow them in the coming weeks as they run low on campaign funds and struggle to get much attention or traction in the race after failing to qualify for the debate stage.

Gillibrand had thrown piles of money toward digital ads in the hope of meeting the DNC’s 130,000-donor threshold for the debate stage. Her campaign spent more than $2.1 million on Facebook alone over the past 90 days, according to the platform’s ad archive. That’s second only to President Donald Trump and billionaire Democratic hopeful Tom Steyer.

The New York senator had leaned hard into women’s rights as a focus of her campaign. She announced her candidacy by declaring, “As a young mom, I'm going to fight for other peoples' kids as hard as I'm going to fight for my own,” and regularly talked about the need for women to step up to counter what she saw as the poisonous effects of President Trump’s administration. She’s also been a leader in the Senate pushing for reforms to protect survivors of sexual assault in the military and on college campuses, years before #metoo became a national rallying cry.

Many of the 2020 Democrats voiced their steadfast support for abortion rights as Trump and Republicans lead an assault on the matter. But Gillibrand went further than most, with a promise to only nominate Supreme Court justices based on their support for Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. Following a midterm election where female Democrats swept to power in races across the country, that looked like a potentially winning formula.

But some of Gillibrand’s moves may have hurt her in the Democratic primary. Some donors and activists thought she was much too quick in calling for then-Sen. Al Franken’s (D-Minn.) resignation after a number of women accused him of sexual misconduct, and that may have undercut her chances as she entered the race.

Gillibrand also faced legitimate questions about her past stances during her time in the House representing a swing district. She was forced to walk back a number of more conservative policy positions on immigration and gun control, key issues in the 2020 primary. Her policy shifts and past views were problematic in a crowded field, where donors and activists can be choosy about who they support, and kept her from getting any traction in the race.

Cover image: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., listens to a reporter's question after a mental health roundtable discussion, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Kirsten Gillibrand