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Eric Swalwell ends presidential bid after failing to gain traction

By Rebecca Buck, Dan Merica and Kate Sullivan, CNN

(CNN) -- California Rep. Eric Swalwell announced Monday that he is dropping out of the 2020 race for president, concluding a short-lived bid for the Democratic nomination that failed to gain any traction.

"Today ends our presidential campaign, 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 said, speaking at his campaign headquarters in California.

"To believe that it will be the next generation whose leadership will solve climate chaos, bring cures in our lifetime for health care, address the student loan debt crisis and make sure that we say enough is enough, we don't have to live this way anymore and that we love our children more than we love our guns," he said.

He continued: "I'm fired up to do that work that I've already been doing in the Congress."

Swalwell's exit from the 2020 race will make him the first candidate to drop out since the campaign began in earnest.

He 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.

Swalwell, though, failed to gain traction in a crowded Democratic field and only qualified for the first set of Democratic debates because of the Democratic National Committee's 1% poll standard, not because of grassroots support.

Swalwell told CNN's Erin Burnett on Monday that he was "running to win and make a difference," and didn't have an honest shot at victory in a field of over 20 candidates.

"If we didn't see a path to winning, there was no other reason to stay in," he said. "I want to narrow this field and let others have their shot so that we can get a nominee that can beat Donald Trump."

Swalwell recently canceled a two-day trip to New Hampshire on July 3 and 4, in the first signal that his campaign might be coming to an end.

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."

While Swalwell would not formally endorse any one Democrat on Monday, he told Burnett that his support will hinge on the candidates' work to combat gun violence.

"I'm going to take some time, I'm going to be looking at who will elevate the issue of gun violence as their top issue, and to promise Americans that we don't have to live this way," he said.

Swalwell said his greatest challenge on the campaign trail was differentiating himself from other members of the crowded Democratic field.

His campaign, at times, was 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.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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