DUBLIN (CBS SF) — East Bay Congressman Eric Swalwell dropped out of the 2020 race for the White House Monday, saying whoever emerges from the crowded field of Democratic candidates to challenge President Trump will have to “be able to take a punch, throw a punch.”

“Today ends our presidential campaign,” Swalwell told reporters at his Dublin campaign headquarters, “But it is the beginning of an opportunity in Congress, with a new perspective shaped by the lives that have touched mine and our campaign throughout these last three months, to bring that promise of America to all Americans.”

Swalwell’s departure still leaves a Democratic field of 23 candidates including front runners former Vice President Joe Biden, California Senator Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

“We need a candidate who is tested,” Swalwell said of the crowded field. “Donald Trump is the best political puncher ever in American politics. So whoever we send to that debate stage with President Trump is going to have to be able to take a punch, throw a punch and then united the country at the end of the campaign.”

“It’s going to be a very special person. So I think this is okay. This is needed. The weaknesses will be flushed out and a leader will emerge.”

However, Swalwell said he had yet to decide who he will endorse.

In announcing his departure, Swalwell said he had “told his wife, constituents and supporters we were running to win… It was not a vanity project…The polls have had their way.”

“It’s really a personal decision,” he said when asked if others should drop out. “We looked at the upcoming debate and the September debate, we had the money in our account to try and qualify for the upcoming debate. But we believed even if we would have done that, when we looked at the September debate, it just wouldn’t add up.”

“We wanted to be honest with ourselves and with our supporters. If there was a viable chance I would not be standing here today.”

The East Bay congressman said he would run for re-election to his East Bay seat in Congress and continue his battle for gun control.

When asked of he had any advice for Bay Area billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who is rumored to soon be joining the Democratic field, Swalwell chuckled.

“It’s rough out there,” he said. “Welcome to the race Tom and I wish him well.”

Speculation of his future began building last week after he canceled a two-day campaign swing in New Hampshire on July 3 and 4th.

Swalwell announced his long shot presidential bid in April, pledging to mount a campaign that focused on the need for generational change in the Democratic Party and his commitment to confronting gun violence in the United States.

The high point of his campaign was likely his direct and blunt challenge to former Vice President Joe Biden, the race’s frontrunner, during the late June debates, where the California Democrat noted that he was six years old when “a presidential candidate came to the California Democratic convention and said it’s time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans.”

“That candidate was then-Sen. Joe Biden,” Swalwell added as the crowd gasped. “He was right when he said that 32 years ago. He is still right today.”

Biden shot back: “I’m holding onto that torch. I want to make it clear.”

But that was not enough to sustain Swalwell’s campaign, which struggled to gain attention in the Democratic field despite the candidate’s availability to media.

Swalwell, throughout his campaign, urged Democrats to “go big and be bold.” He proposed a gun buyback program to get certain weapons off America streets and said he would fund a study on gun violence.

Standing outside the National Rifle Association headquarters in Virginia in June, Swalwell said, “We’re not just here to stand up to the NRA … we’re here to beat the NRA.”

But Swalwell’s campaign, at times, was often defined by awkward moments, like when he looked to deliver a clever line at the June Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame celebration.

“I will be bold without the bull,” the congressman said to a quiet audience.

 

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