Why Is Tulsi Gabbard Still in the 2020 Presidential Race After Better Polling Democrats Dropped Out?

In the run up to Super Tuesday, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and billionaire Tom Steyer have all ended their presidential campaigns—but despite low polling numbers and poor showings in the early states, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii hangs on.

While Gabbard hasn't qualified for the past five Democratic debates—her last was the fifth debate, held in November—the candidate has made a number of campaign stops ahead of the primary elections and caucuses. Gabbard appeared in South Carolina shortly after the New Hampshire primary—skipping the Nevada contest—and held several town halls across the state. She'll be in Michigan on Super Tuesday, and spent Monday in California surfing with supporters from the City Surf Project.

Still, despite her efforts, Gabbard has consistently appeared in the bottom of polls and has repeatedly come in last among the major candidates in early-voting states. Gabbard has no delegates so far. Her best showing was in New Hampshire with 3.3 percent of the vote. In South Carolina, she only received 1.3 percent, and did even worse in the two caucus states, Iowa and Nevada, where she received 0.0 percent and 0.1 percent respectively.

Given that Steyer dropped out shortly after his highest performance in South Carolina, as well as early frontrunner Buttigieg removing himself from the race, some may wonder why Gabbard is staying in the race. Last month, Gabbard told reporters that she hadn't discussed dropping out with her campaign.

"I know that our path forward lies in continuing to be able to reach out directly to voters and deliver our message about how I'm the best candidate to defeat Trump in November," she said.

Some pundits have suggested that Gabbard is staying in the race in an attempt to angle for a position at Fox News. On Saturday, former presidential candidate Andrew Yang said on CNN, "She already said she's not running for Congress anymore. She's got a different agenda."

"What's the agenda? To be a Fox contributor, isn't it? I mean, I don't have any information, I'm just assuming—that's where she appears," CNN anchor Anderson Cooper replied.

Cooper isn't alone—last month, his fellow CNN personality, Bakari Sellers made the same accusation, asking "Why is Tulsi still in? How long is this Fox News audition?"

Gabbard has denied that working for Fox News is her motivation, saying that Sellers is "wrong."

"I wish Bakari would actually listen to what I'm saying, listen to my call for an end to regime change wars, to end this new Cold War nuclear arms race and instead to invest our taxpayer dollars towards actually serving the needs of residents and voters here in South Carolina," she told The Post and Courier.

Still, Gabbard's motivations to stay in the race are unclear.

"Tulsi Gabbard represents a constituency of one, and that person's name is Tulsi Gabbard," Dr. Brian Klaas, assistant professor in global politics at University College London, told Newsweek.

Tulsi Gabbard
Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, shown here at a New Hampshire campaign event in February, has no pledged delegates and comes in last in national polls, but is staying in the race even after more popular candidates have dropped out. Scott Eisen/Getty

Despite a lack of results, Gabbard's campaign has had a fair amount of controversy, most notably, when 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton claimed Gabbard was being "groomed" to be a third-party candidate.

"I'm not making any predictions, but I think they've got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate," Clinton said during an appearance with David Plouffe, a former Barack Obama adviser. "She's the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far."

Gabbard hit back by calling Clinton "Queen of Warmongers." She then filed a defamation suit, seeking $50 million in damages. Speaking to Fox News' Tucker Carlson, she said saying that Clinton was taking her "life away."

"This is my life that we're talking about here. For me as a soldier, as every service member does, I took an oath of loyalty to our country. The country that I love. Willing to put my life on the line for our country, deploying twice to the Middle East to do so," Gabbard said. "So when you have someone as powerful as Hillary Clinton seeking to smear my reputation and essentially implying that I'm a traitor to the country that I love, what she essentially is doing is taking my life away."

Newsweek reached out to the Gabbard campaign, but has not heard back by publication time.