Martin O'Malley holds a campaign rally at a supporter's home in Johnston, Iowa on Jan. 31, 2016.
Natalie Keyssar for TIME
By Charlotte Alter
Updated: February 2, 2016 12:15 AM ET

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley suspended his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination after the Iowa caucuses on Monday night, ending a White House bid that never gained traction with voters.

“Together we all stood up for working people, for new Americans, for the future of the earth and the safety of our children,” he wrote in an email to supporters. “We put these issues at the front of our party’s agenda — these are the issues that serve the best interests of our nation.”

O’Malley aimed to position himself as a more youthful alternative to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race, but was ultimately sidelined by the enormous enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders, especially among younger voters. Sanders mentioned O’Malley in his own speech Monday night, noting that “he ran an issue oriented-campaign, and he won the respect of the American people.” Clinton also praised the former governor.

Campaign staff expressed pride at a what they called an “honorable” campaign and emphasized that this simply wasn’t O’Malley’s race. “Overall, this is a wacky, wacky year, and nobody had seen anything like it,” said Haley Morris, a senior staff member. “It also wasn’t a year for governors.” The former governor was polling at an average of 2% and won few major endorsements.

Iowa Caucus results 2016

Craig Varoga, who was chief strategist on O’Malley’s campaign for governor, said the concession was a “sensible response to a clear reality.”

“This has been a two-person race since June, it was never a three-person race,” he said, noting that it was “impossible to get to the left of Sanders.”

“The planets were just not aligned whatsoever for him in this campaign,” Varoga said.

With most precincts reporting in Iowa late Monday, he was drawing less than 1% of the vote.

— With reporting by Sam Frizell in Des Moines

Write to Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com.

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