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Billionaire Tom Steyer quits Democratic primary race

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By Adam Edelman and Allan Smith and Jordan Jackson  with NBC News Politics
Image: Tom Steyer
Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer speaks at "Our Rights, Our Courts" forum at New Hampshire Technical Institute's Concord Community College on Feb. 8, 2020, in Concord, N.H.   -   Copyright  Andrew Harnik AP

Tom Steyer, the California activist billionaire who has largely been a nonfactor in the Democratic primary campaign, dropped out of the race on Saturday night.

Steyer made the announcement following a disappointing finish in the South Carolina Democratic primary Saturday night. With 56 percent of the vote in, Steyer had just 11.7 percent of the vote — despite spending millions of dollars on campaigning there.

Steyer had initially opted against entering the presidential race before reversing course and joining the large field in July. He spent exorbitant sums of his own money on the race, outpaced in the Democratic field by another late-entrant, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire media mogul.

Steyer based his candidacy on promising to declare a "national emergency" on climate change upon taking office, racial justice, and ideas like allowing voters to make laws directly through regular national referenda.

Steyer was able to become a regular participant in the Democratic debates, though some his rivals charged that he was simply buying his way onto the stage.

The billionaire activist rose to prominence through his spending on liberal causes. He also launched the group Need to Impeach, which advocated for President Donald Trump's impeachment.

The state Steyer zeroed-in on and saw the greatest return on his investment was South Carolina, where he consistently polled among the top three contenders.

Asked about Democrats thinking he should drop out of the race due to little visible path to the nomination, Steyer told NBC News in an interview he didn't care for what "the Democratic establishment" thinks of his strategy and said it was "a crazy statement" to claim he was serving as a spoiler for former Vice President Joe Biden.