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Lincoln Chafee Ends His Presidential Campaign

Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee leaves after speaking at the New Hampshire Democratic convention in  September in Manchester, N.H.
Jim Cole
Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee leaves after speaking at the New Hampshire Democratic convention in September in Manchester, N.H.

Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee ended his long-shot presidential bid on Friday.

"As you know, I have been campaigning on a platform of Prosperity Through Peace. But after much thought I have decided to end my campaign for president today," Chafee announced at the Democratic National Committee Women's Leadership Forum.

The onetime Republican turned independent turned Democrat is the second candidate to withdraw this week, following former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb's announcement on Tuesday that he was ending his Democratic bid. Webb, however, left open the possibility of running as an independent.

Both Chafee and Webb had barely campaigned, making only a handful of visits to early states. But more so than Webb, Chafee had struggled to make any dent at all in the race.

Chafee had little financial backing for his campaign, raising just $8,300 from 10 major donors during the last quarter. But his few supporters told NPR this week they liked the positive attitude he brought to the race and hoped he would remain in the mix.

The former senator, who hailed from a prominent political family in the Ocean State, had an unremarkable performance in last week's presidential debate. He spoke for just nine minutes during the two-hour faceoff.

Chafee underscored that he had been against the Iraq War from the beginning, a contrast to front-runner Hillary Clinton's controversial 2002 vote. He echoed his anti-war sentiment in his withdrawal announcement on Friday, too.

"The United States of America is so strong militarily, economically and culturally that we can take chances for peace. In fact, as a strong mature world leader, we must take chances for peace. If we have courage, if we take risks, we can have Prosperity through Peace, not just in the United States, but all over the world," Chafee said.

At the debate, he also tried to needle Clinton on her and her husband's past scandals, proudly noting that he had never had a whiff of any misdeeds during his decades in office. But when he tried to engage Clinton over her email server and land a blow, she declined to engage.

Chafee's most damaging answer was when he was asked why he voted to repeal banking regulations known as the Glass-Steagall Act. His answer was that he had just gotten to the Senate after his father died (he was appointed to succeed him) and that he was not familiar with the bill, making Chafee come across as even more unprepared.

Even his sparsely attended announcement in June that he was running for the White House was widely panned, having spent much of his time advocating for the U.S. to switch to the metric system.

Chafee, who like his late father, John, served as both senator and governor of Rhode Island, had an interesting life before entering politics, though. After attending an exclusive Northeastern prep school, where he was a classmate of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Chafee graduated from Brown University and then headed to Montana State University to learn to be a farrier, someone who shoes horses. For years he traveled around the U.S. working at racetracks.

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Corrected: October 22, 2015 at 9:00 PM PDT
An earlier version of this article said Chafee graduated from Montana State University. He graduated from Brown University and then from MSU's horse farrier program.
Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.