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Tom Steyer Exits Race After His Plaid Tie's Crushing Loss In SC Primary

2020 democratic primary

Eccentric billionaire Tom Steyer staked his entire presidential campaign on a strong performance in Saturday's South Carolina Primary. He dropped almost $20 million in the Palmetto State and all he achieved was keeping Pete Buttigieg under 10 points. Although I think that's money well spent, Steyer himself is less sanguine. He's joining the other Tim Ryans on the island of misfit candidates.

STEYER: I said if I didn't see a path to winning, then I'd suspend my campaign. And honestly, I can't see a path where I can win the presidency.

There was never any path for Steyer, and I could've told him this before he wasted $253 million. You could buy at least two fixer uppers in Seattle for that kind of money. His mess of a campaign wasn't entirely self-funded. He did ask economic mortals for contributions of at least $1 so he could meet the individual donor threshold and loophole his way onto the debate stage. That grassroots support came out to $3,555,597 total, which is about $10 million less than what people have donated to Tulsi Gabbard, presumably by accident.


Steyer's spending in South Carolina was "lavish" and a little shady. His name even became a verb synonymous for spreading the money around.

"We're literally calling it 'Steyered' here," Colleen Condon, the chair of the Charleston County Democratic Party, said Thursday. "It means you can buy anything you want. You can afford the most ads and afford the most staffers."

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Third place wasn't a terrible showing for a candidate with no political experience or previous ties to the state. He didn't come in fourth after "winning" Iowa like a common Buttigieg. Steyer went all in on South Carolina. He tried to win over black voters who ultimately remained loyal to Barack Obama's former vice president (I'm referring to Joe Biden). Steyer's wife, Kat Taylor, was almost a resident of the state. She even spoke at my dad's church in Greenville, and he's currently enjoying his new Maserati. (If the FEC is reading, those are two unrelated sentences.)

Steyer was OK for a billionaire. He invested in efforts to combat climate change. There's also no evidence that he bullied and disparaged his pregnant employees. He wore the same tie every day, which is one of those billionaire quirks that makes you forget all about the gross level of income inequality in this country. Look, if you wore the same plaid tie for the rest of your life, maybe you could finally pay off your student loans.

He was also one of the few candidates to make a point of saying nice things about Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. He agreed with them at debates even when they were disagreeing with each other. As Robyn observed, Steyer wanted to be invited to the socialist potluck. He'd offer to bring carob chip oatmeal cookies and everything.

I appreciated that Steyer didn't just speak in platitudes or recycled covers of Obama speeches. He spoke real truth to NBC's Katy Tur the other day about the media's "both sidesing" of the partisan divide. He didn't claim he could "heal the nation" or some other naive bullshit.

TUR: Are you saying you can't get along with Republicans?

STEYER: I have nothing whatsoever against Republican voters. But what we've seen in Washington, D.C. over an extended period of time is a Republican Party that's extreme, intransigent, and unwilling to meet in anything like a reasonable place. That was true for eight years of the Obama administration. I think Barack Obama is one of the calmest, most objective -- he's "No Drama Obama" ... he could never get a deal from Republicans on anything. They absolutely blocked his ability to get federal judges, including a Supreme Court Justice. They literally just last month refused to allow evidence into the impeachment trial, refused to allow witness.

TUR: If you can't work with them, what do you do when you're governing? ... How can you govern?

It's the same damn question Democrats are always asked, as if it's their responsibility to make Republicans less like gangsters. Steyer and his plaid tie weren't going to stand for that crap.

STEYER: I think what we have to do is go out and win at the grassroots. I hate to be rude, Katy, but President Obama couldn't work with them. We went through eight years with zero compromises where [Republicans] refused to do things that would be good for the United States of America because they thought they'd be good for the Democratic Party. That was a consistent eight year procedure, and it hasn't stopped. You're looking at me, and I think this is a consistent attitude of people in the media saying, "Why can't you get along with Republicans?" I want you to get on TV and ask Mitch McConnell why he's never gotten along with Democrats.

Well said, sir. Thank you for your service. Now go back that azz up.

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[New York Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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