SOUTH BEND - Pete Buttigieg ended his improbable but impressive presidential campaign where it began, in South Bend, the city he served as mayor and put on the national political map.

Cheers, nor tears, predominated in the crowd at South Bend’s Century Center, when Buttigieg announced Sunday night that he was suspending his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president. Cheers were for the man who was highly popular in two terms as mayor and who went on to become a top-tier candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Cheers included: “2024! 2024!” Cheers for the future. Tears were scarce. After all, Buttigieg went farther in the presidential quest than most in the crowd could have imagined when he announced his candidacy in South Bend early last year.

He actually won the most delegates in the Iowa caucuses, a monumental achievement obscured by the long tabulation delay that deprived him of the news coverage that should have been his on election night. He came within a small margin of defeating Bernie Sanders in the New Hampshire primary, a small margin that deprived him of an upset of Sanders in a state Sanders was supposed to win easily.

But when Buttigieg he did so poorly in South Carolina Saturday, as Joe Biden did so well, it was obvious that he had no momentum and not enough funding to compete effectively in the Super Tuesday contests across the nation.

So, in politics, he took the advice that Kenny Rogers sang about in card playing: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.”

He could not run effectively now. There was no sense of holding on, suffering defeats to tarnish such amazing achievements. It was time to walk away, especially when staying on in the cluttered “moderate” lane toward the nomination would only help Sanders, the candidate whose supporters savaged Buttigieg and are threatening to swerve the party so far to the left that chances of President Trump’s re-election would be enhanced. Buttigieg stressed again Sunday that his goal in his presidential campaign has always been to bring about defeat of Trump and unification of the nation.

“We were never supposed to go anywhere at all,” Buttigieg told his supporters. He credited then with helping him get somewhere, farther than pundits thought possible.

“You made me proud,” he told them. And they responded with applause showing pride in him.

He didn’t get to the nomination. But he got to somewhere a lot farther toward that objective than, say, the mayor of a bit larger city, New York, and such highly publicized early contenders as Julio Castro, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.

Since it looks after South Carolina as though it is becoming a two-candidate race for the nomination, Sanders and Biden, it was time to fold ’em, fold the Buttigieg campaign, and get out of the way and out of contending while still regarded as having done so well.

Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.