Pete Buttigieg has left the democratic primary race, topping off a hectic weekend which saw Joe Biden score his first presidential primary victory in 30 years of running for the office. The Mayor of South Bend, Indiana has, by the same metric, to date had the same degree of presidential success in his first run as Biden has had through three contests stretching back to 1988.
That is to say, of course, that Mayor Pete's first run should be seen as especially impressive, given his age, relative inexperience and complete public anonymity prior to last year. Whether the decision was forced by financial necessity, or was taken as a political tactic, leaving the race at this point seems like a smart move. Despite several heated exchanges throughout the contest with Biden and others vying for position in the 'moderate lane', Buttigieg's timely exit with the obvious, if implied, intention of shoring up Biden's support against Bernie Sanders will cement his place as a rising star in the party establishment. Buttigieg is 37 years old, and as such will remain a viable presidential candidate for at least the next seven or eight election cycles; and, of course, if the democratic primary results in a contested convention (a result made far more likely by Buttigieg's decision to drop out before Super Tuesday), Buttigieg, along with every other candidate in the field, will get a second shot at the nomination.
The story of the presidential primary will be cemented over the next 24 hours. If Biden stays on track, or overperforms, a contested convention will become all but certain. The democratic party will, if history is any guide, lose itself to infighting, and the rest of the campaign will be a bitter, factional struggle which will almost inevitably do damage to the eventual nominee's prospects in the general. If Sanders outperforms his polls even slightly, Biden's path to the nomination narrows substantially and Sanders may be on track to win a majority of delegates, avoiding the contested convention. If this comes to pass, the factional infighting in the democratic party will still bubble on, but is likely to be somewhat more muted (absent the possibility of a third party run by breakaway moderates). This will be remembered as the year when the democratic party establishment finally reckoned with its growing progressive base (in the same was as the GOP had to reckon with its new, more radical base in 2012); how that story plays out, whether it is ultimately beneficial or destructive to the democrats, and what the ramifications might be for the nature of party politics in the US, could all be determined tomorrow night.