Mike Bloomberg has ended his presidential campaign after falling well short of Democratic front-runners Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders on Super Tuesday.
The billionaire was a late addition to the crowded field of contenders aiming to take on Donald Trump in November and hoped his enormous wealth would help him make up ground on his more experienced rivals.
But despite spending a reported £500m to promote his White House run, Mr Bloomberg endured a disappointing set of results on a key night of voting in the Democratic primaries on Tuesday.
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“Three months ago, I entered the race for president to defeat Donald Trump,” the 78-year-old announced.
“Today, I am leaving the race for the same reason: to defeat Donald Trump – because it is clear to me that staying in would make achieving that goal more difficult.”
Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York, has previously promised to put his considerable financial muscle behind whoever becomes the Democrat nominee ahead of the November general election.
He has said he will now endorse Mr Biden, who restored his status as favourite on Tuesday after Mr Sanders had taken an early lead in the first handful of states to vote last month.
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Bloomberg said in a statement: “I’ve always believed that defeating Donald Trump starts with uniting behind the candidate with the best shot to do it.
“After yesterday’s vote, it is clear that candidate is my friend and a great American, Joe Biden.”
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Super Tuesday was the first time Bloomberg – who is one of America’s richest men – was on the ballot and he found himself languishing well below Biden and Sanders, securing just one win from the 15 endorsements up for grabs.
Fourteen states and the US territory of American Samoa voted, and Bloomberg only won American Samoa.
His performance was mocked by Mr Trump, who tweeted that “Mini Mike” was “the biggest loser of the night” who had washed hundreds of millions of dollars “down the drain”.
“Way to go Mike,” the president added.
Reacting to the news he had dropped out, the president said: “Mini Mike Bloomberg just ‘quit’ the race for president.
“I could have told him long ago that he didn’t have what it takes, and he would have saved himself a billion dollars, the real cost. Now he will pour money into Sleepy Joe’s campaign, hoping to save face. It won’t work!”
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Having received the backing of Mr Bloomberg, Mr Biden has now been endorsed by some of his most high-profile former competitors in the race to take on Mr Trump.
On Monday he was endorsed by fellow moderates Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar, giving him a massive boost against the self-described democratic socialist Mr Sanders – the senator for Vermont.
Mr Biden’s campaign had a stuttering start as Mr Sanders won the likes of Nevada and New Hampshire.
But the former vice president swept to vital victories in Alabama, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia on Tuesday.
He now leads the race in terms of the number of delegates, although Mr Sanders is close behind after winning the biggest prize of the night – California.
California has 415 delegates, representing the largest haul of the entire nominating contest.
There could soon be another casualty of the Democratic contest, with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren reportedly “talking to her team to assess the path forward” after a disappointing set of results thus far.
She did not finish in the top two of any of the 14 states that voted on Super Tuesday, including her home state.
Warren is one of four candidates left standing, along with Mr Biden, Mr Sanders and Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who is currently bottom of the delegate rankings.