(CN) – Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign was met with bemusement, shoulder shrugs and dismissiveness when he first announced it in November 2016.
But the Silicon Valley entrepreneur who ran on the threats of automation and artificial intelligence and the promise of introducing Universal Basic Income was surprisingly durable in a crowded field of candidates, outlasting the likes of Senators Corey Booker and Kamala Harris.
Amid the New Hampshire primary, Yang announced his campaign for president of the United States was over, officially withdrawing from the race to become the Democratic nominee.
“I stand before you today to say that while we did not win this election, we are just getting started,” Yang said via Twitter on Tuesday night.
He had told supporters of late that he needed to dramatically exceed expectations in the New Hampshire primary to continue his campaign.
“I am the math guy, and it is clear from the numbers we’re not going to win this campaign,” he said at a stop in Manchester, N.H. “So tonight I’m announcing that I am suspending my campaign.”
The writing was on the wall for Yang as he only managed to get 1% of the caucuses in Iowa and looked to fare no better in New Hampshire.
Nevertheless, his message centered on job loss as a result of unforeseen impacts of technology struck a chord with a slice of the electorate and engaged a small but passionate following – members of which called themselves the “Yang Gang.”
The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Yang parlayed an Ivy League education into a career as a corporate lawyer and then a startup founder, a venture capitalist and philanthropist. But his buttoned-up resume belied his freewheeling campaign that was defined by a sense of levity and optimism that sought purchase on ground separate from the divisive acrimony and outrage peddling of some of his competitors.
The antecedents of Yang’s political aspirations could be seen in 2011, when he founded Venture for America, a nonprofit that focused on creating jobs in the Rust Belt cities that were so hollowed out in the wake of the Great Recession that began in 2008.
Yang announced the end of his candidacy the same night as Michael Bennet, the senator from Colorado.
Bennet, who ran as a moderate candidate younger than Biden and more centrist than Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, never got the type of traction in the polls or among donors to make his candidacy viable.
He ignored Iowa, instead holding more than 50 town hall events in New Hampshire in the hopes of boosting his profile in that state while his competitors sought victory in Iowa. With the disaster in Iowa his strategy proved prescient, but he was unable to make headway in the Granite State, so the former school superintendent bowed out.
Bennet was hurt by his late entry into an already crowded field. By the time he announced his candidacy, there were already 20 others vying for the Democratic nomination and his announcement barely registered.
He said surgery to remove prostate cancer delayed his announcement and that his grassroots approach would eventually register but his big bet on New Hampshire failed to pay off.
Unlike Yang, Bennet failed to find a policy niche that could capture the attention of voters not already pledged to someone else. He railed against Medicare for All and consistently warned the Democratic Party was tacking too far to the left, also coming out against the decriminalization of border crossing proposed by candidates such as Warren.
The major problem for Bennet is that other more well-known candidates such as former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg were occupying the moderate lane.
Yang, by contrast, appealed to legions of disaffected voters that did not necessarily identify with either party.
His technology-focused message is a sign that in the future candidates of both parties will have to offer policy fixes for unintended consequences created by the speed of technological development in the modern world.
At first, Yang’s scheme to give every American adult $1,000 per month earned scorn and derision from political pundits, but Yang expanded his message as the campaign evolved and his genial approach to politics earned plaudits.
Yang will likely parlay his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination into other political goals, telling reporters recently he would not rule anything out after he was asked if he considered a run for mayor of New York City.
Bennet’s exit is unlikely to signal much of a boost to any of the remaining candidates, as Biden’s campaign is flailing and Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar are competing to represent the centrist alternative to Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist.
Sanders may stand to benefit most from Yang’s departure, as many of his supporters said they voted for Sanders in the last presidential race. But many of Yang's supporters also previously voted for Trump and it remains unclear to which candidate in the Democratic field, if any, they will latch on.Follow @@MatthewCRenda
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