Steyer, who was one of two billionaires in the Democratic primary race, spent more than $260 million of his own money on the race. He had invested more heavily in Nevada and South Carolina than some of the other candidates, and some polls in January had shown him surging into the top tier of candidates.
But he came in fifth in Nevada and early results showed he remained under the threshold to capture national delegates in the South Carolina primary.
Steyer, 62, announced his campaign last July, after initially declaring last January he would not enter the race. He is the founder of two political organizations, NextGen America and Need to Impeach, through which he supported Democratic candidates and ballot initiatives and led an impeachment movement against President Trump. Though he had never held elected office, Steyer campaigned on his private-sector business experience and his ability to organize people on a large scale.
“As an outsider, I’ve led grassroots efforts that have taken on big corporations and won results for people,” Steyer said in a statement that accompanied his launch video. “That’s not something you see a lot of from Washington these days. That’s why I’m running for president.”
Forbes estimates Steyer’s net worth at $1.6 billion, mostly made through his longtime hedge fund, Farallon Capital, which he sold in 2012. As other candidates struggled to raise funds and qualify for debates, Steyer outlasted several sitting governors and members of Congress.
Steyer’s continued ability to transform his personal wealth into a protracted presidential campaign — and a spot in the debates — was a source of growing friction in the party, especially at a time when income inequality was top of mind for Democrats.
In an October email to supporters, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) wrote that Steyer’s “ability to spend millions of his personal wealth has helped him gain in the polls like no one else in this race.” Both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have accused billionaires of trying to buy the 2020 nomination.
Nevertheless, Steyer — who supported a wealth tax and tended to fall on the liberal sides of issues — proved a less of an effective foil for Sanders and Warren than former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, a multibillionaire who would enter the race after him and promptly outspend him in advertising. He also raised eyebrows by almost always appearing in public with his signature red plaid tie, of which he had multiples.
“When I get up in the morning, I want to have some fun,” Steyer said recently. “Let's face it. Isn't it about time for the United States to go back to having some fun again, for God's sakes?”