WASHINGTON: Democrat trailblazer Kamala Harris pulled the plug on her US presidential campaign on Tuesday (Dec 3) after a promising start to her bid was eroded by underperforming in a crowded field and a failure to raise sufficient funds.
The exit of the progressive senator leaves 15 candidates in the battle to see who challenges President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election.
"I've taken stock and looked at this from every angle, and over the last few days have come to one of the hardest decisions of my life," the 55-year-old Californian told supporters in an email.
"My campaign for president simply doesn't have the financial resources we need to continue."
Her departure, following weeks of campaign turmoil, shines a light on the disruptive potential of a self-funding candidate like billionaire Mike Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York.
Having stagnated in fifth place in polling, with under four per cent support, Harris was bumped to sixth spot after Bloomberg's recent entry.
"I'm not a billionaire. I can't fund my own campaign," Harris said.
"As the campaign has gone on, it's become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete."
It was a parting swat at Bloomberg and billionaire activist Tom Steyer, both of whom have spent millions of dollars in broadcast and online advertising.
It was also a telling revelation about the piles of cash that candidates need to mount a viable campaign in today's heated political environment.
"Kamala is right - our system is deeply broken when billionaires can buy their way in," tweeted liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of several presidential hopefuls to quickly thank Harris for her campaign.
Harris has been a political ground-breaker, only the second black woman elected to the US Senate.
She rocketed into White House contention with a stirring campaign launch in January, on Martin Luther King Jr's birthday, before 20,000 onlookers.
But her prospects slid in recent months as she struggled to define her positions on domestic issues including healthcare.
She antagonised voters by suggesting in January, and again in a debate, that she sought to eliminate private health insurance to make way for universal health coverage.
Harris is one of the biggest names to date to leave the race, along with former congressman Beto O'Rourke of Texas and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Harris has been a fierce Trump critic, directly assailing the embattled president and repeatedly calling for his impeachment.
She also jousted with Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden in the party's first presidential debate, in June, when she attacked him on his positions on race and school busing.
It provided a breakout for the candidate, who saw her support rise to - and peak at - 15 per cent in polling.
But that viral moment proved to be a strategic miscalculation; she suffered a months-long slide while Biden's support largely held steady.
Harris recently invoked the need to rebuild the "Obama coalition" - African Americans, Hispanics, women, independents and millennials who together swept Barack Obama to victory in 2008 - in order to defeat Trump.
But Biden, who for eight years served as Obama's vice president, has managed to maintain pole position among black voters.
Harris is a former prosecutor and one-time attorney general for California whose steely demeanor can give way to a million-watt smile.
Her historic candidacy was noteworthy in the era of Trump: as a black American daughter of immigrants, Harris appeared to be the American dream incarnate, mounting a challenge to a president whom many Democrats denounce as the nation's divider in chief.
Biden said he has "mixed emotions" about Harris dropping out. "She is a first-rate intellect, a first-rate candidate, and a real competitor."
Harris was the third candidate to quit the race in recent days, along with low-polling Democrats Montana Governor Steve Bullock and former congressman Joe Sestak.