If you had money on Eric Swalwell being the first Democratic presidential candidate to withdraw from the race …. well, you lost. That honor actually goes to former West Virginia State Senator Richard Ojeda, who announced for President in November of 2018 and then dropped out in January, long before Swalwell even announced he was running.
(If you’re asking, “Who is Richard Ojeda?,” you’ve pinpointed the reason why his presidential campaign only lasted a month and a half.)
Eric Swalwell is, however, the first candidate to drop out after the first round of Democratic debates. Ironically, Swalwell didn’t do that badly at the debates. Though he was overshadowed by Kamala Harris, he was the first candidate to suggest that it was time for Joe Biden to pass the torch to a younger generation. Swalwell may not have set the stage on fire but he still did considerably better than Beto O’Rourke or Michael Bennet.
As a candidate, Swalwell focused on youth and guns. That approach previously helped him build up a following online but it never made much of a dent in the polls. Swalwell was best known for claiming that the Democrats were the Avengers and the Republicans were the Hunger Games, which always led me to speculate that he hadn’t seen either film. On the right, Swalwell was notorious for telling a pro-2A activist on twitter that a civil war over gun control would be short because the government has nukes. While Swalwell was obviously trying to make a joke, bragging about being able to use nuclear weapons is never a good way to win a debate with someone who claims that the government can’t be trusted.
Swalwell’s withdrawal is not a surprise. After the first debate, he said that if he didn’t start to poll higher than 0% in the polls, he would probably have to drop out and run for reelection to the House. Since Swalwell’s district is in California, he’ll probably have his seat for a while to come.
Swalwell was first elected to the U.S. House in 2012. Interestingly enough, he was elected over another Democrat, 20-term incumbent Pete Stark. (Because of California’s jungle primary, the top two vote getters in the primary move on to the general election, regardless of party.) At the time, Stark accuses Swalwell of being a member of the “Tea Party,” which is even more humorous when you consider the efforts to which Swalwell went to shore up his woke credentials during his presidential campaign. It is true, though, that many Republicans were happy to see Swalwell defeat Stark, who had a reputation for being one of the biggest pricks in Congress. (Stark famously called one female colleague “a whore” and referred to a Jewish congressman as being “Field Marshal Solarz in the pro-Israel army.”)
Swalwell leaving the presidential race brings the number of “major” Democratic candidates down to 24 but rumor has it that billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer will be announcing his candidacy tomorrow.