First to ABC: Steve Laffey leaves the 2024 race, reflects on longshot campaign
"You haven't heard the last from me," Laffey told ABC News.
Steve Laffey, the former mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island, who announced his candidacy back in February, is dropping out of the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
"I love being on the trail. I love meeting people," he told ABC News. "I am crestfallen that I wasn't able to cross the chasm."
Laffey never broke through in any national polls or had a breakout moment that could have placed him on potential voters' radar, punctuated by his inability to qualify for the debate stage. He considers his low name recognition partially to blame for this.
Behind Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, he is the second Republican presidential hopeful to drop out. But unlike Suarez, Laffey decided to pull out because, aside from financial reasons, he no longer believes in the message of his party.
"I don't have an avenue to tell people with a straight face, 'It's now October -- how do I take off and take New Hampshire and keep going?' But at the same time, I'm telling people the GOP is dead," he said.
Laffey said he plans to go to City Hall and register as an independent.
"I am really really upset about certain things with my party. I will be leaving the party," he said.
A lifelong Republican who began organizing conservative events when he attended Bowdoin University, he said this decision was not made lightly. Laffey places the bulk of the blame for his party's fallacies on former President Donald Trump, insisting that he should be in jail.
"He's an authoritarian figure who's getting stronger," Laffey told ABC News.
Trump is the dominant candidate in all national and statewide polls. Despite the 91 charges he faces -- to which he has pleaded not guilty -- Trump has a hold on the party other candidates seem unable to shake, commanding a 40-point lead in the primary race, according to FiveThirtyEight's average.
Laffey believes congressmen like Republican Matt Gaetz are a direct result of Trump's far-reaching influence. Watching former Speaker Kevin McCarthy get ousted from his role in the House of Representative was too much to "bear," Laffey said.
He told ABC News that he has "no hope" for the Republican Party -- other than his own candidacy, that is.
Laffey raised just $18,589.04 with $106,484.95 cash-on-hand at the end of the second quarter, according to his FEC filing. He told ABC News that after he drops out, he will settle any outstanding bills and donate whatever is left, which he estimates will only be a couple thousand dollars.
Aside from taking a month off to travel with his family, he has no immediate plans for life off of the trail.
"There's worse things than watching 'Hawaii Five-0,' the original one, on a Friday night eating some Breyers ice cream," Laffey jokingly said. "You haven't heard the last from me. It just won't be, at least for now, as a Republican candidate for president, and it won't be as a Republican."
Back in July, ABC News went to his "farmette" in Fort Collins, Colorado, to interview the longshot candidate. Laffey, ever hopeful despite the daunting odds, commented that he didn't understand how people could be comfortable "watching from the sidelines." For him, this was his last shot to do something great.
And while he no longer feels that way, he says his next project is "still out there."
"I still think there's a body of work that I can contribute to. I don't know what it's exactly going to be, I wish I did," he said.