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Buttigieg Ends 2020 Presidential Bid; Pete Buttigieg To Speak After Ending Campaign; Second Coronavirus Death Confirmed In Washington State. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 1, 2020 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[20:00:00]

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: We are standing by right now for his formal announcement in South Bend, tonight. CNN will bring you that announcement live as it happens. It should happen within the next half hour, we are told. But listen to what Buttigieg told reporters on board his campaign airplane just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A little bit of news for you about our flight. We're making a change in our travel plans and traveling to South Bend rather than to Texas. Going to be making an announcement there about the future of the campaign. And look forward to sharing with our supporters and with the country where we're going from here. So that is why you will find we are headed in a different direction here than we originally planned on.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you getting out of the campaign?

BUTTIGIEG: I'm looking forward to making an announcement tonight to the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Joining us now former Democratic presidential candidate and CNN Political Commentator, Andrew Yang. He is on the phone with us.

First, your reaction.

ANDREW YANG (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Ana, this is a big announcement, but it's not a complete surprise, in part, because it's the right decision. And Pete became a top tier contender out of relative anonymity because he makes the right decision.

Super Tuesday is just essentially hours away. And Pete was unlikely to post a win in any of the states. He didn't have a funding path forward. And so he looked at the path ahead and said that dropping out would be the best decision for the party, for his team, and for the country. And so I applaud this decision because I think Pete is doing it for all the right reasons. I think it's actually a tremendous boost for those who want to defeat Donald Trump in the fall.

CABRERA: But where do you see his supporters going? YANG: You have to see the vast majority of his support going into Joe

Biden. This is a major boost for Joe Biden going into Super Tuesday. Pete was polling in -- let's call it, the 8 percent to 12 percent range depending upon the state. And most of those votes are going to go straight to Joe. A few might go to Mayor Bloomberg. But this cannot be seen as anything other than a major boost for Joe Biden heading into Super Tuesday.

CABRERA: Now we understand the two have exchanged voicemails today, although they haven't had a chance to actually connect. I know you haven't made an endorsement yet. Our understanding is the former mayor is not expected to make an endorsement tonight when he makes his announcement in the next hour. But, I mean, if he is concerned about Sanders' campaign and our reporting is that that is largely what impacted his decision here that he wasn't willing to be one reason that Senator Bernie Sanders is able to get an insurmountable lead, according to our sources.

Given there are other moderate candidates still in the race, Amy Klobuchar, for example, Michael Bloomberg, another example, would it be beneficial for him to make an endorsement before Super Tuesday?

YANG: Well, having been through this process, Ana, there are so many people that help you in your campaign. And you want to honor the conclusion of your campaign. It's almost like you can't really do both things at once and do them appropriately, in my experience. I mean, like, this is going to be very, very hard news for many, many people who have been supporting Pete for the last number of months.

And I think it's entirely right for him to address them and focus on the campaign first and its conclusion, and then turn attention to the other candidates who are still in the race.

CABRERA: What do you see as his influence on this race going forward?

YANG: Well, certainly, Pete has garnered tremendous support around the country. I do think most of his support will naturally flow to Joe. But if Pete were to decide to endorse, of course, it'd be very meaningful. He raised tens of millions of dollars from Americans around the country. And I think that the people that supported him would be thrilled to see Pete campaign for someone else if Pete decided to do so.

CABRERA: Andrew Yang, I do want to ask you, because you were somebody who, you know, has provided more diversity in this race, and now we have another person who brought that diversity into the race dropping out. We're left with three men, the youngest now is 77 years old. That is Joe Biden, and of course we also have a couple of women still in the race, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren competing. But are you surprised this is where we are right now?

YANG: You know, unfortunately, Ana, I think we can all see where this race is trending. So I'm not sure I can say I'm surprised.

[20:05:03] I do think that for a variety of reasons many people want to see the field consolidate as much as possible very quickly, essentially into Bernie, and then one other non-Bernie candidate. So that dynamic is going to continue. To me the major variable is Mike Bloomberg. What is his plan? There was some thought that he might even make a decision heading into Super Tuesday even though the voting hasn't really started in terms of the states that Mike is competing in.

That to me is a major, major variable in everything, because Mike's bank roll enables him to be competitive anywhere he wants to be. He hasn't been able to reach certain percentages in the polls, but he's competitive just about everywhere. So, to me, that is the major decision ahead for the field, really what Mike's dashboard tells him is the right thing to do.

CABRERA: All right. Andrew Yang, really appreciate your insights. Thanks for joining us.

YANG: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: I want to bring in CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny, also our political correspondent Abby Phillip, and the senior editor for "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein, assistant editor for the "Washington Post," David Swerdlick and former South Carolina state representative, Bakari Sellers.

Everybody, thank you for being here.

Jeff, you interviewed Pete Buttigieg just a couple of days ago. Did you pick up any indicators that an end to his campaign was so close?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Ana, we did. We talked with Mayor Buttigieg on Friday in Charleston, South Carolina, and there was a sense for him that he was looking at this in a very pragmatic way as he has done throughout the course of this campaign. He could see what was coming. And he said, look, there is a sense that the Democratic primary is -- you know, the majority he believes is looking for someone other than Senator Sanders.

And he said just the mathematics of this shows that something has to change in this race. But at that point he said, look, I am the only one who has outpaced Bernie Sanders in the state of Iowa. So he said I have the -- you know, the largest standing in this. But he said it is up to the voters to decide this, not the candidates.

So of course there was a sense that in the next day when Joe Biden was expected to win South Carolina, and he did win South Carolina convincingly so, that Pete Buttigieg would no longer be in the driver's seat. So since then, there has been a sense talking to his advisers that he wanted to end this campaign on a high note.

He wanted to end this campaign on a positive note and not fight for the end. Because of course he has a long political future here ahead of him. He is 38 years old and what a remarkable run he did have. But you could get the sense from talking to him, from seeing his final rallies that he knew the end was likely and close. And Ana, I'm told right now there is a donor call going on with some

of his top donors. And the question is, even if he does not endorse tonight, will the donors be given a sense to move over to another campaign, likely the Biden campaign? And that is something that the Biden campaign needs desperately, are new donors, a new infusion of cash and investment here so that's something we're watching tonight.

CABRERA: Yes. I'm sure any of the campaigns would welcome his supporters and his donors.

ZELENY: Sure.

CABRERA: Bakari, as somebody who knows personally Buttigieg, how difficult do you think this decision was for him?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, it's not just difficult for Pete but it's difficult for all of those people who have been helping out Pete Buttigieg throughout his campaign. I mean, I was looking at a tweet from Congressman Clyburn's grandson AC in South Carolina who was an integral supporter for Pete Buttigieg and just watching his tweet talking about how much he cared for Pete.

Pete brought a lot of people into this process. I've been somebody who's really critical of Pete Buttigieg. But one of the things that I always tell people is I have a great respect for his acumen. He was politically nimble and he represented history. And I have to say again, I said it earlier to you, Ana, I have to say it now, Pete Buttigieg is not the future of the Democratic Party. He is the right now of the Democratic Party.

And so my hat goes off to him. And Pete created stars. I mean, for those -- all of us that are sitting in these little boxes on TV, we all know Lis Smith. We all know Lis. We have a great deal of respect for Lis. But Lis actually took a small-town mayor to someone who was the winner of the Iowa caucus. And so I think that as we watch Pete in front of all of these American flags tonight, we have to admire his strength, his perseverance and what we did for the political process.

I'm going to miss Pete for his efforts in trying to engage African- American voters, watching his growth on the trail. He didn't hit that note. And let me just point out last, I know Ron probably will help me or critique me on my numbers. But CD 1 last night, it was Joe Cunningham's congressional district, many of us thought that Pete Buttigieg was going to be able to get a delegate or a couple of delegates out of that district. By not being able to even pull that off, I think that sealed his fate as a presidential candidate.

CABRERA: I want to play just a portion of the last interview Buttigieg gave to CNN. This was on Friday, just two days ago.

[20:10:02]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: At what point is this about finding a stronger nominee versus a candidate's own ego? BUTTIGIEG: Well, the only reason that you ought to run for president

in the first place is to make yourself useful to your country. And every time I made a decision to run for office and every time I made a decision to not run for an office, it's been about looking at where I could make the biggest difference.

ZELENY: You say it right now what process will you go through post Super Tuesday to assess your way forward?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, of course, we will be looking closely at the results at the delegate account and making sure that we have the right path forward in a calendar that actually becomes more favorable for us as we go deeper into March and April. So I am very optimistic about the road ahead and I think that we'll continue to have a very strong position moving toward a win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Ron, how do you explain this dramatic shift in just two days?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The reality of Pete Buttigieg's biggest flaw as a candidate, his inability to break through among voters of color was really underscored in South Carolina as among African-Americans as it was in Nevada among Latinos. And if you can't do that, you ultimately can't be the nominee.

Buttigieg was a very competitive candidate among white voters with a pretty broad base of support, both economically -- you know, education wise and age. But he was never able to get over that hurdle. He's obviously, as Jeff Zeleny said, someone with a big future in the Democratic Party. But I think one thing to kind of keep in mind here is that he is the centrist end of the millennial Democrats at a time when Bernie Sanders is dominating among younger voters, among millennials and post-millennials.

And I think, you know, if you kind of look beyond this race, I mean, it's going to be fascinating to watch. Pete Buttigieg I think emerging as a leader on the centrist part of that against others who will be much more identified with the left end of the millennial generation like AOC. But in the near term this probably helps Biden more than anybody else. But I don't think it's guaranteed that all of his voters slow there by any means.

Biden is still struggling with blue collar white voters and some of those who are for Buttigieg again was competitive among kind of all strata of white voters. And I think it's no guarantee that Biden can coral those. He is going to have to work for that.

CABRERA: So, Abby, an aide tells us, quote, "He is getting out for the same reason he got in. He believes we need to beat Donald Trump in that we need to make sure we have the strongest candidate possible to do it." That is a quote. Who is that candidate?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That is the big question. But, I mean, frankly, all signs point to that candidate being Joe Biden. One of the factors going into this for Buttigieg, and, frankly, for his staff, is that if you look at what has happened over the first four contests, he's in third place right now. There are candidates who have placed more poorly than he did, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Tulsi Gabbard, who are still in this race.

And I think that's what has made this decision so difficult. But that's also why I think his aides believe that it's so important for him to step out now to sort of lead the way on this because his rationale for several days and weeks now has been that there needs to be a sort of other alternative to the sort of center left -- the sort of progressive left in Bernie Sanders, a more center left candidate of the likes of Joe Biden or Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar.

If it wasn't going to be him, and it's probably not going to be Amy Klobuchar because she still hasn't even done as well as even Pete Buttigieg did, then the only possibility is Joe Biden. It's one of the reasons, I think, why, you know, I'm told that the phone calls that were exchanged between Buttigieg and Biden tonight, they did not connect as of right now. But Buttigieg made that call to Biden, in part, out of respect to him, I'm told.

And I think that we heard even last night, I was at his rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, last night. And, you know, Joe Biden emerged from South Carolina the clear sort of winner of that race. He is for Buttigieg, the person that he would have to sort of bring down in order to rise. We did not see Pete Buttigieg take on Joe Biden last night. I think that was not by accident. It was, in part, because there's a clear sense in his campaign.

And with Buttigieg personally that the person who is most like him ideologically is going to have to be a Joe Biden-type figure. So we should really be looking for that as we go forward. I think for the candidates who believe that they want a different kind of politics from what Bernie Sanders is offering, this moment is so important for them because it's going to require some of them to take a step back.

Buttigieg has been drawing crowds of 2,000 and 3,000 in some of these states. It was a tough decision to take a step back from that and say, I don't have a path forward, somebody else might. I need to, you know, at least get out of the way, if not throw my support behind someone else.

CABRERA: And so, David, why not make an endorsement tonight then?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, Ana. I think he will make an endorsement at some point soon. We'll see what he says in this speech tonight.

[20:15:02]

Clearly, the sooner he does it, the more value it has, and the more he is able to sort of parlay that into future good will either with one of the candidates he might endorse or with the party in general, but this is already a pretty big turnaround from where we were just two days ago, as you pointed out.

And so I think now we're in a situation where he and his team are going to figure out what it gets them to either endorse Biden and maybe send some of his voters that way as well as position himself in the party, as Ron was saying, as the heir apparent in that moderate lane or whether it makes sense to see what happen on Super Tuesday.

We do still see a situation where Biden is surging out of South Carolina, but Senator Sanders is still the frontrunner in this race right now. We'll know a lot more in two days.

CABRERA: OK, everyone, please stand by. We are going to keep an eye on that podium. You saw where the setup is there in South Bend, Indiana, where we expect former mayor Pete Buttigieg to make his announcement tonight in the next 15 minutes or so. We'll keep an eye on that. And one person looking to gain out of Pete Buttigieg's exit is former vice president Joe Biden. We are learning new details about contact between Biden and Buttigieg today.

Plus, also breaking this hour, New York's governor announcing the state's first case of the coronavirus. The patient having recently returned from Iran. The governor saying that the patient is isolated this hour. We'll bring you more information as it comes in.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:20:33]

CABRERA: We are continuing to follow our breaking news. Multiple sources confirming that former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg is ending his campaign for the presidency tonight. And we are waiting to hear from Buttigieg himself. In South Bend, Indiana, he told reporters he'll make his announcement in the next few minutes, at half past the hours when we expect it. We will bring you that announcement live when it happens.

Meantime, his fellow Democratic candidates are reacting on Twitter. We have this from Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren. "Thank you, Pete Buttigieg, I know you'll continue giving back and serving our country for many years to come." Michael Bloomberg tweeting, "Pete Buttigieg ran a strong campaign that inspired audiences and made history. His dedication to serving our nation as a mayor and veteran reflected a love of country I deeply admire. Our party is stronger and our nation is better because of his run."

And this from billionaire businessman Tom Steyer who ended his own run for the White House just last night. "Pete Buttigieg brought a fresh perspective and sense of optimism to the race. His call for inclusivity is laudable. As a first openly gay candidate to mount a major bid, he has proven we aren't limited by who we love. Mayor Pete has a bright future and will help us win the era."

I want to get to CNN's Rebecca Buck in Virginia where Joe Biden is rallying his supporters this evening.

Rebecca, any mention of Pete Buttigieg from Joe Biden so far? REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No mention yet, Ana. But he

did rally his supporters here in Virginia, as you can see, they are now filing out. The former vice president wrapped his remarks just a few minutes ago. His message was what we would expect after South Carolina. He feels that this is a campaign that is on the rise and that he is well positioned on Super Tuesday in states like Virginia and elsewhere to make the most of this moment.

But there is no question, Ana, that Buttigieg's decision to drop out of the race at this moment, at this juncture, is going to be potentially a very important boost for Joe Biden. What we know at this hour, according to CNN's reporting, is that they have traded voicemails. They have not yet been able to connect, the former vice president and the former South Bend mayor, but they are trying to get in touch. Meantime, their staff have had conversations.

We are not expecting an endorsement this evening from Buttigieg. But we have heard what he has said about Bernie Sanders and his rejection of that path for the Democratic Party. So, read between the lines and you can see that certainly Mayor Buttigieg supports a Biden-like path for the Democratic Party. We'll have to see if he comes out and endorses him. But certainly the Biden campaign tonight feeling very good about this development.

We are going to wait to see what the vice president has to stay. Perhaps he is waiting for Buttigieg first to make his remarks in South Bend.

But the other part, of course, Ana, is Michael Bloomberg on Super Tuesday. We don't know what his impact will be and if he will now draw some of those supporters from Pete Buttigieg, or Elizabeth Warren could be the beneficiary as well. But Biden feeling buoyant today in his supporters today as well here in Norfolk, Virginia -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Rebecca Buck, thank you. We'll check back.

Again, we are awaiting an announcement from Pete Buttigieg in South Bend, Indiana, any moment. Let's go back to our panel.

Jeff, you have some new information I hear?

ZELENY: I do. I am told that Pete Buttigieg is speaking with his donors, his top donors, of his campaign right now. The moment he landed in South Bend, Indiana, he jumped on a conference call with some of the top donors and he did tell them that he does indeed plan to get out of this race, as we have been reporting for the last hour or so. And he did thank them for their support. And he did not mention that his future plans, what -- if he plans to endorse anyone or not, going forward.

But it is expected that he is telling donors to follow their own hearts here in terms of turning their support to another candidate. So that is key. Joe Biden needs the financial support from Buttigieg supporters if they are so inclined to do so. So that is key.

Ana, we are also learning tonight that former president Barack Obama spoke with Joe Biden after the South Carolina primary. And he told them that, look, he does plan to stay on the sidelines of this race still.

[20:25:02]

He does not plan to offer an endorsement. He believes his best role as a unifying figure for this party. So he does not plan to tip the scales. Talking to one confidant of the former president who has spoken to him in the past several hours, this person tells me that they also believe an endorsement could backfire. They do not believe that it could actually have a big effect.

When the president was in office, he did not have a strong track record of winning endorsements in races that he offered endorsements. Of course, he endorsed Hillary Clinton and that didn't work out so well. So he is planning on staying on the sidelines, as he's been doing for some time here. He believes his role will be a unifying one, trying to bring the party together whenever this primary fight is finally over, Ana.

CABRERA: So, Bakari, what do you make of that, that phone call between the former vice president and Barack Obama last night, especially given Barack Obama has been really out of the spotlight when it comes to this 2020 race?

SELLERS: I think that we are going to have a very rough and tumble road to figuring out who the nominee's going to be. And Barack Obama's number one job in this entire primary cycle is to bring this party together. He still is the most popular figure. And I know that no one who supports Bernie Sanders and no one who supports Joe Biden wants necessarily for that path to be altered. I think that his job is to bring the party together, and I think that's what he's focused on.

In regards to Pete getting out the race tonight, and I was just looking at an article by Jeff Zeleny in another lifetime, about John Edwards who was actually in a stronger position at the time than even Pete was now, even though he was running third. And John Edwards, with all his faults and failures, I'm not dare comparing the two, but he was running stronger at that time, and he too got out the race, similar to Pete because he acknowledged that that race wasn't his, that history would be made.

And so I think that what people have to realize is that right now it's a two-person race. It's a Bernie Sanders versus Joe Biden race. And you have two egos. There's two people and two egos, those egos being Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg. And they're going to have to make a decision about what they do going forward. But all hats off to Pete Buttigieg and I expect Barack Obama when the time is necessary, I am tired of people asking Barack and Michelle for something because they gave eight years of their lives to us. But when the time is right they will come off the sidelines and do what is necessary.

CABRERA: Ron, play this out for us as we await the words from Buttigieg. With him out, what does the road look like ahead for Biden?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I mean, you know, the big question for Biden, obviously, is whether he can consolidate more of the voters who are skeptical of Sanders. And we don't really know how big that universe ultimately is. What we've seen so far is that Bernie Sanders has been very strong with three or four different groups of voters. He's dominated them on young voters. He's dominated among the most liberal. And he's had a significant advantage among Latino voters and a measurable but not as big advantage among blue collar white voters.

What we've seen from Biden really is not much on anything except his performance among African-Americans in South Carolina and Nevada, and then in South Carolina he improved among those white-collar white voters. Biden ultimately has to expand his coalition. If this is not going to be a very temporary spring because we are moving once -- even if he gets through Super Tuesday and Michael Bloomberg is marginalized and ultimately decides after spending $500 million, he didn't enough support to continue.

Even if Biden gets his footing back, and can reduce this to a one-on- one race with Bernie Sanders, if he doesn't improve among those working-class white voters, those Midwestern states that are looming in the middle of March like Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan, and Missouri, could be tough places for him. So, there is an opportunity for him. Clearly, Sanders is a plurality, not a majority frontrunner.

The party has not consolidated around him after his victories in New Hampshire and Nevada. There is still a lot of resistance. But it is still to be proven that Biden can expand his coalition to the point where he can go toe-to-toe and ultimately end up in Milwaukee with a comparable number of delegates as Bernie Sanders.

CABRERA: And so what do you think, David, the road looks like for Sanders?

SWERDLICK: I think Sanders right now can play that frontrunner role. He's got a double-digit lead in polling in Texas. He's ahead by a few points -- several points in California. Those are the two biggest Super Tuesday prizes. It's tighter in the other bigger states, Virginia and North Carolina. But if he can go with where the polling is right now, I think he will still be in the driver's seat in this race.

I agree with Ron that Biden has to expand his coalition quickly. I agree with Bakari that this is narrowing down quickly to a two-person race, maybe with Michael Bloomberg as a wild card. But we're going to know a lot more after Super Tuesday. And I think that, yes, Biden made a statement over this weekend with a commanding win in South Carolina.

[20:30:00]

But we need to know more about what he can do outside of African- American voters, outside of voters in southern more moderate to conservative states, before we say that he's pulled a pace with Senator Sanders, who just has run a very effective campaign, even though a lot of the Democratic Party is still wary of where they're going with a far left candidate.

CABRERA: And Abby, as David just brought up, Bloomberg hasn't been on the ballot yet. He has spent more than half a billion dollars already on advertising. He gets in on Tuesday, what impact could he have?

PHILLIP: Well, he's already had a huge impact in terms of really fracturing the non-Bernie Sanders vote in this race. And it's really up the pressure for Biden to either strengthen his campaign or for the other candidates to make some decisions about how they are going to play this.

Are they going to continue to be in the race, hoping that that something good will happen for them or will they step aside and sort of narrow or -- sorry, expand Biden's window of opportunity to kind of compete with both Sanders and with Michael Bloomberg? One of the other factors is that it also puts financial pressure on a lot of these campaigns. Michael Bloomberg has unlimited resources. He's already spent more than half a billion dollars on this race.

And several of the other candidates have staked their rationale on staying in the race on the -- their ability to raise money, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, raising money from grassroots donors. They both announced really massive fundraising halls in February, $46 million for Sanders and $20 something million for Warren. Biden is trailing behind. So, I mean, I think that there is a sense now in which everyone in this race has to decide, do I have a real path to go forward?

And do I want to play a spoiler role, I mean, Bloomberg is not going to face any sort of financial pressures to get out of the race. So, the other candidates have to decide If they're going to continue to soak up grassroots money, traditional money, making it more difficult for other candidates who have a bigger path to do that, and I think that that's one of the reasons -- was one of the factors that played into to Pete Buttigieg's decision to drop out tonight, you know.

His campaign, actually, instead of $13 million fundraising goal before Super Tuesday, on Saturday, they sent an update to supporters saying they've raised $8 million. Now, that sounds like a lot of money, but it's really not that much money. So, they're -- they'd already started to experience a little bit of that slowdown in how much money they're able to bring in.

And when you're looking at Super Tuesday, you need tens of millions of dollars to go up on the air on a good day. You need, you know, tens of millions of dollars, and then some, to go up on the air and compete with Michael Bloomberg, given that he's already dumped, you know, $100 million, $200 million in these states altogether.

CABRERA: And I just want to let us all know that we are awaiting Pete Buttigieg to speak any moment. We were told around 8:30. So, it really should be any minute. I might have to interrupt if he takes the podium there. We have heard the crowd chanting, Pete, Pete, Pete. Bakari, does it bother you -- and I talked about this a little bit with Andrew Yang at the top of the hour.

Does it bother you that here we are, as you know, the contest get underway and the field diversity is getting narrower and narrower, especially, you know, now Pete Buttigieg dropping out, he was the youngest in the field. He obviously is gay. And we haven't hardly any ethnic diversity left. You are part of this Party. What does that tell you?

SELLERS: Well, just so you understand, Ana, we have one billionaire left in the race. So, we're not -- we're not losing all the diversity. I mean, we had two billionaires. Now, we -- now we have one.

No, I mean, I think that a lot of people are downtrodden and distraught and just trying to figure out where they're going to find themselves in this process. I mean, do you want to which 75-plus-year- old white male, do you want, is the question that people are asking themselves at this time.

So, yes, we are having a crisis of diversity in our Party and Pete Buttigieg was a ray of light. I mean, there's no question about it. I mean, and not only was he brilliant beyond, you know, anyone's belief, but he represented so much of the future of who we want to be. He and his husband, Chasten, represented the future that we thought we could have in this country.

And you know, as we see -- as we see them go on stage now, I mean, it was an amazing, amazing moment. That for them to be winning the Iowa caucus. I keep going back to that moment.

CABRERA: Hey, Bakari, let's just stop and pause for a minute. Forgive me for interrupting. But let's listen to --

SELLERS: Sure.

CABRERA: -- Pete Buttigieg's husband. This is Chasten Buttigieg.

CHASTEN BUTTIGIEG, HUSBAND OF PETE BUTTIGIEG: We love you. It's good to be home. Thank you everyone for coming tonight. About a year and a half ago, my husband came home from work and told me -- well, he asked me, what do you think about running for president?

[20:35:05]

And I laughed, not at him, but at life. Because life gave me some interesting experiences, on my way to find Pete. After falling in love with Pete, Pete got me to believe in myself again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love you.

C. BUTTIGIEG: And I told Pete to run because I knew there were other kids sitting out there in this country who needed to believe in themselves too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

C. BUTTIGIEG: Yes, we did. Together, we did. This campaign was built on an idea of hope, an idea of inclusion, an idea of addition, rather than subtraction, about bringing people together, about looking your neighbor in the eye, and saying maybe we don't agree on everything. But let's agree on this. We've got one shot, and that's what we did.

We went out there with that one shot and we gave it everything we had because it is time for every single person in this country to look to the White House and know that that institution stands for them, that they belong in this country. It has been an honor and a privilege to share my husband with the rest of this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

C. BUTTIGIEG: You're so welcome. And I am so proud that the same person you saw on the debate stage, the same person you saw at a town hall, is the same person that comes home to me every night. For those of you who know me, you know, I'm usually not short with words, but tonight, I will be. It's an honor to come home and to bring home the person I love so dearly. So, please help me welcome to the stage, my dear husband, the man I love so much, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Hello. Thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love you.

P. BUTTIGIEG: It's so good to be in South Bend. Sometimes, the longest way around really is the shortest way home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

P. BUTTIGIEG: Here we are. In the last few years, America has faced enormous challenges, from an economy in transition, to a climate on the brink, to a president sowing chaos and discord across the very country, he is responsible for unite. And for many Americans, these challenges have amounted to a call to action. And so, like so many others, I thought deeply about what I could do to make a difference, what I could do to make myself useful.

And it was in that spirit, with your help, that a year ago, we launched our campaign for the American presidency. We began this unlikely journey with a staff of four, in a cramped office, right here in South Bend, Indiana, right down Washington Street. No big e-mail lists, no personal fortune. Hardly anybody knew my name and even fewer could pronounce it. But South Bend showed everybody what to do. First name, Mayor, last name, Pete. So, nobody got confused.

[20:40:09]

CROWD: Mayor Pete! Mayor Pete! Mayor Pete! Mayor Pete! Mayor Pete! Mayor Pete! Mayor Pete! Mayor Pete! Mayor Pete!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love you!

P. BUTTIGIEG: But by every conventional wisdom, by every historical measure, we were never supposed to get anywhere at all. And then, as I said, that roller coaster February night, a few weeks, ago when Iowa shocked the nation, along that way, an improbable hope became an undeniable reality. In a field in which more than two dozen Democratic candidates ran for president, Senators and governors, billionaires, a former vice president, we achieved a top four finish in each of the first four states told nominating contest and we made history winning those Iowa caucuses.

And all of that, it came about thanks to your support. Thanks to the power of this campaigns vision, in your hands. It proved that Americans really are hungry for a new kind of politics rooted in the values that we share in cities and suburbs and rural communities, and crowds. It's spilled out of venues from Salt Lake City to Raleigh to Arlington, we saw Americans ready to meet a new era of challenge with a new generation of leadership.

We found countless Americans ready to support a middle-class millennial mayor from the industrial Midwest, not in spite of that experience, but because of it, eager to get Washington to start working like our best run communities, intact. In a divided nation, we saw fellow Democrats joined with independence. And yes, some of those future former Republicans, to choose a different politics, to choose the politics defined not by who we push away, but by how many we can call to our side.

And we send a message to every kid out there wondering if whatever marks them out is different, means they are somehow destined to be less than, to see that someone who wants felt that exact same way can become a leading American presidential candidate with his husband at his side. We got into this race for a reason. We got into this race in order to defeat the current president and in order to usher in a new kind of politics.

And that meant guiding our campaign by the values we like to call the rules of the road. Respect, belonging, truth, teamwork, boldness, responsibility, substance, discipline, excellence, and joy. And every decision we made was guided by these values. One of those values is truth. And today, is a moment of truth.

After a year of going everywhere, meeting everyone, defying every expectation, seeking every vote, the truth is that the path has narrowed to a close for our candidacy, if not for our cause. And another of those values is responsibility. And we have a responsibility to consider the effect of remaining in this race any further. Our goal has always been to help unify Americans to defeat Donald Trump and to win the era for our values.

And so, we must recognize that at this point in the race, the best way to keep faith with those goals and ideals, is to step aside and help bring our Party and our country together. So, tonight, I am making the difficult decision to suspend my campaign for the presidency. I will no longer seek to be the 2020 Democratic nominee for president. But I will do everything in my power to ensure that we have a new democratic president come January.

[20:45:09]

CROWD: 2024! 2024! 2024! 2024! 2024! 2024! 2024! 2024! 2024!

P. BUTTIGIEG: We have to, because every time this president brings partisan politics into the management of a deadly serious pandemic, or purchase officials who honor their oaths of office by telling the truth, or cloaks in religious language and administration whose actions harm the least among us, the sick and the poor, the outcast and the stranger, we are reminded just how urgent it is that we change who is in the White House. We cannot afford to miss this moment. With every passing day, I am more and more convinced that the only way we will defeat Trump and Trumpism is with a new politics that gathers people together. We need leadership to heal a divided nation, not drive us further apart. We need a broad-based agenda that can truly deliver for the American people, not one that gets lost in ideology. We need an approach strong enough not only to win the White House, but to hold the house, win the Senate and send Mitch McConnell into retirement.

And that broad and inclusive politics, that is the politics that we have attempted to model through this campaign. That, I believe, is the way forward for our eventual nominee. So, I urge everyone who supported me to continue in the cause of ensuring that we bring change to the White House and working to win the absolutely critical down ballot races playing out across the country this year.

There is simply too much at stake to retreat to the sidelines at a time like this. And as this contest gives way to the season of weekly elections and delegate math, it is more important than ever that we hold to what this is actually all about. Politics is not about the horse race, not about the debate stage or a precinct counting the spreadsheet, it is about real people's lives.

It is about our paychecks, our families, our futures. We can and must put the everyday lives of Americans who have been overlooked for so long, back at the center of our politics. And every story that became part of this campaign helped show us why and how we do just that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!

P. BUTTIGIEG: Politics is about people and that is especially true the people who touched this campaign. To my competitors in a historically diverse field, those who have stepped aside and those still competing, thank you for demonstrating what public service can be. To the people of South Bend, this river city we love so much, thank you for keeping me honest and thank you for keeping me going.

And to our Pete for America family, I cannot express how grateful I am to every staffer, every volunteer, every supporter who believed in what we were building.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

P. BUTTIGIEG: You walked in neighborhoods on hot summer days and drove on icy roads in the wintertime. You filmed and tweeted and coated and crunched numbers. You built relationships and you built events. You lit up offices and you filled High School gyms with equipment and then with people, and then with cheers, in the name of our values, freedom and security and democracy.

Our contributors, so many of you dug deep to fuel this campaign, nearly a million grassroots supporters who sacrificed financially so that this message of hope and belonging could reach every corner of this country, thank you for what you gave to make this possible. Online, in person, with family and with the friends and with total strangers, you shared your personal stories and you made the life of this campaign part of your own.

[20:50:06]

What you did and the way you did, was how we could show not just tell the kind of campaign we could be and the kind of country we will build. You made me proud every single day. And last, I want to thank my own family, my mom who not only helped raise me, but put her love of language into work, answering letters for the campaign, my father who left us just as this was all getting underway, but he was very much here and part of this effort.

And to the guy who took a chance on a first date with somebody all the way in South Bend, Indiana and never looked back, Chasten, I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with you. I know that as this campaign ends, there comes disappointment that we won't continue. But I hope that everyone who has been part of this in any way knows that the campaign that you have built and the community that you have created is only the beginning of the change that we are going to make together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.

P. BUTTIGIEG: My faith teaches that the world is not divided into good people and bad people. That all of us are capable of good and bad things. Today, more than ever, politics matters because leaders can call out either what is best in us, or what is worse than us, can draw us either to our better or to our worst selves. Politics at its worst is ugly, but at its best, politics can lift us up. It is not just policy making, it is moral. It is soul craft. That is why we were in this.

Earlier today, we were in Selma, marching in commemoration of the civil rights movement on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where I was humbled to walk in the symbolic and the literal shadows of heroes who 55 years ago, made America more of a democracy than it had ever been, by their blood and by their courage. And seeing those moral giants, made me ask what we might achieve in the years now at hand, how we might live up to the greatest moral traditions of political change in this country.

It made me wonder how the 2020s will be remembered when I'm an old man. I firmly believe that in these years in our time, we can and will make American life in politics more like what it could be, not just more wise and more prosperous, but more equitable, and more just and more decent. Think about proud of our time we could be if we really did act to make it so that no one has to take to the streets in America for a decent wage because one job is enough in the United States of America, whether you went to college or not.

Imagine how proud we would be to be the generation that saw the day when your race has no bearing on your health or your wealth or your relationship with law enforcement in the United States. What if we could be the ones to deliver the day when our teachers are honored a little more like soldiers and paid a little more like doctors? What if we were the ones who rallied this nation to see to it, that climate would be no barrier to our children's opportunities in life? The chance to do that is in our hands.

That is the hope in our hearts. That is the fire in our bellies. That is the future we believe in, a country that really does empower every American to thrive, and a future where everyone belongs. Thank you for sharing that vision. Thank you for helping us spread that hope. Thank you so much. Let's move on together. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

[20:55:10]

CABRERA: And there you have it, Pete Buttigieg ending his 2020 presidential campaign. Everyone is back with me now.

Bakari, I'll start with you since I cut you off to go to his remarks. What's your reaction to his speech?

SELLERS: That speech was awesome. That was -- that was a -- my mom just text me while we were sitting here. My mom said that was presidential timber. So, she enjoyed it. That was an awesome speech. That's why everybody fell in love with Pete Buttigieg. Something that -- just quickly, I know we're -- I know we're being briefed. But I also want to just point out the timing of this. I completely stepped on Michael Bloomberg.

I know Bloomberg had that three-minute ad and it was about coronavirus or something like that. But Pete Buttigieg is the story tonight, is the story tomorrow, and I think that the person who benefits the most from Pete Buttigieg being the story, is going to be Joe Biden. So, we'll see what happens. But this race has a long way to go and hopefully Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Mike Bloomberg, take lead from Pete Buttigieg, and so that you have to put the country first.

CABRERA: David Swerdlick, your thoughts on what we just heard.

SWERDLICK: Yes, it was a well-done speech. He got out at the right time. None of the candidates in this race wasn't Obama. Each of them had a little piece of Obama. Mayor Buttigieg's piece was that he delivered oratory and that even Stephen Baritone, all that was really missing there, was don't boo vote. And I think that's how people will remember him. His supporters were chanting 2024.

Of course, if he runs at that time, Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez will be 36 at that time, you could see something like that as a Democratic primary, and this same moderate versus left-type clash among Democrats, depending on what happens on Super Tuesday, next year and in the years to come.

CABRERA: And Ron Brownstein, he said too much is at stake to retreat to the sidelines. Why do you think he did not endorse Joe Biden at this time? Do you expect --

BROWNSTEIN: Well, one reason -- yes, one reason is what Andrew Yang said, I mean, you want to be respectful to your supporters at this moment, you don't immediately want to put them into something else. But he gets two bites -- two bites at the apple this way. I mean, he made very clear tonight that he does not think Bernie Sanders direction is the right direction for the Democratic Party or a winning direction. And that'll be part of the story tonight and tomorrow.

And then if he does, in fact, endorse later, he will get to make that point again a second time. So, like many other things he did, this was both smooth and shrewd. And he certainly someone with a -- with a future ahead of him, though, precisely the way that David says, potentially, and an ideological conflict of the direction of the Party through the 2020s.

CABRERA: You mentioned as they get Bernie Sanders, interesting, because as he was speaking, Bernie Sanders also weighed in, I have the transcript. He says tonight, I just welcome all of his supporters into our movement, and to urge them into joining us for real change in this country. Abby, do you see his supporters potentially getting behind Bernie Sanders?

PHILLIP: I don't think it's out of the question, but I certainly think that what Pete Buttigieg was trying to tell his supporters tonight was that he thinks that his view of politics in America is actually different from Senator Sanders' view. And I spoke to an aide tonight who said that he wanted to center his, sort of, vision for politics in America, that that he believes that the American people want to -- want to move away from a kind of divisive politics.

And the implication there is, that that politics, that kind of division would only be, sort of, extended by Bernie Sanders. So, I do think it's pretty clear where Buttigieg was leading people here. The question is, you know, what do voters do? That's an individual decision. And I just want to point out one other thing. He talked about what he did this morning, he started the day in Atlanta, meeting with Jimmy Carter, he went to Selma, Alabama to mark a Bloody Sunday with the other candidates.

And talking to his aides, I asked, why didn't he do this last night? Why did he do this today? And, you know, one of them said, you know, well, he wanted to have those experiences. It was all part of this process, of processing what he needed to do here tonight. And I think you heard him speaking and reflecting on that tonight. And I think it really just -- it kind of clarified the need to kind of put country first. And I think that's what his aides are saying led him to this moment.

CABRERA: Okay, all of you, thank you so much for being with us. It is an historic night. It was an historic candidacy. But again, Pete Buttigieg now, out of the 2020 race. Thank you all. I do have to bring up some other breaking news we're following tonight.

Here at CNN, a second person has died of the coronavirus here in the U.S. in Washington State. This latest death is a man in his 70s who was suffering from underlying health conditions, we are told. This is according to the Seattle and King County Public Health Department. We'll, of course, stay on top of this story as we continue here on CNN. I'm Ana Cabrera. We have a brand-new episode of the "RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE" right now. Good night.