By Kit Maher and Melissa Holzberg DePalo | CNN
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced Tuesday that he is ending his campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
“While I have decided to suspend my campaign for President, my commitment to making this a better nation for every American remains,” Suarez said in a statement.
Suarez’s move comes after he failed to fully meet the requirements set by the Republican National Committee to make the first presidential debate in Milwaukee last week. He had told CNN prior to the debate that candidates who do not make the stage should drop out – even if that included himself.
“I look forward to keeping in touch with the other Republican presidential candidates and doing what I can to make sure our party puts forward a strong nominee who can inspire and unify the country, renew Americans’ trust in our institutions and in each other, and win,” Suarez said Tuesday.
Suarez launched his long-shot bid for the presidency just over two months ago, in mid-June, urging Republicans to unify and evoking Ronald Reagan’s call for the party to rebuild its “big tent” coalition.
The son of Cuban immigrants, Suarez was the lone major Hispanic candidate in the Republican primary, which includes two higher-profile fellow Floridians: former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“I will continue to amplify the voices of the Hispanic community – the fastest-growing voting group in our country. The Left has taken Hispanics for granted for far too long, and it is no surprise that so many are finding a home in America’s conservative movement,” he said Tuesday.
Over his short-lived campaign, Suarez acknowledged he did not have the same name recognition as many of his GOP rivals.
“My opponents have been national figures for many years. I’ve been a national figure for 60 days. So, you know, I’m competing from behind,” Suarez said earlier this month at the Iowa State Fair.
He ultimately did not meet the polling criteria set by the RNC to make the Milwaukee debate stage, his campaign said. Candidates had to register at least 1% support in three national polls or in two national and two early-state polls that met the RNC’s criteria.
Suarez said he had met the 40,000 individual donor threshold to qualify for the debate. His campaign employed some unconventional methods to meet that goal, including accepting bitcoin donations, offering $20 gift cards and raffling off tickets for soccer superstar Lionel Messi’s debut at Major League Soccer club Inter Miami. The pro-Suarez super PAC, SOS America, also offered a chance to win a free year of college with a $1 donation.
An early stumble
Shortly after launching his campaign, Suarez stumbled in an interview on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, indicating that he was unfamiliar with the plight of the Uyghur Muslim ethnic minority in China, whose treatment has been the subject of worldwide condemnation for years.
The conservative talk radio host asked Suarez if he would be “talking about the Uyghurs in your campaign?”
Suarez responded, “The what?”
“The Uyghurs,” Hewitt said, prompting the candidate to ask, “What’s a Uyghur?”
At the end of the interview, Suarez told Hewitt, “You gave me homework, Hugh. I’ll look at – what was it? What’d you call it, a weeble?”
In a later statement to CNN, Suarez denied that he had been unaware of the Uyghur situation and the accusations against China of human rights abuses.
“Of course, I am well aware of the suffering of the Uyghurs in China. They are being enslaved because of their faith. China has a deplorable record on human rights and all people of faith suffer there. I didn’t recognize the pronunciation my friend Hugh Hewitt used,” he said.
China denies the allegations of human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.