Lessig drops out of presidential race

Presidential candidate Lawrence Lessig dropped out of the race Monday, accusing the Democratic Party of shutting him out of its debates.

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The Harvard law professor and former tech advocate, who ran an unorthodox campaign focused almost solely on campaign finance, said his only chance of success was to get a slot in the primary debates.

"I must today end my campaign for the Democratic nomination and turn to the question of how best to continue to press for this reform now," he said in a YouTube video.

He blamed the Democratic Party for changing its debate rules midstream, adding that he wanted to run as a Democrat, but "the party won't let me."

When asked about an independent run, he said in a brief email to The Hill that "nothing (legal) has been ruled out."

Lessig's announcement leaves three major candidates in the Democratic field — front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding Hillary Clinton slams Trump for spreading 'sexist trash' about Pelosi Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign MORE, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersJames Carville: Biden represents 'stability' not 'generational change' Ocasio-Cortez, progressives trash 'antisemitic' Politico illustration of Bernie Sanders 2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding MORE (I-Vt.) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Lessig had not factored into the contest. In recent weeks, he tried to shift his campaign message to gain traction, and backtracked on a vow to resign the presidency after getting a slate of election reforms passed.

He struggled to have his name included in polls after raising $1 million in small donations to enter the contest. When his name was included, he struggled to garner any support.

He touted two recent polls, however, that measured his support at 1 percent nationally.

The Democratic Party has required candidates receive at least 1 percent in three major national polls in the six weeks leading up to the debate in order to get a spot on the stage. But Lessig said the rules were changed last week, which would require those three polls to come prior to the six-week mark.

"And under the new rule, unless we can time travel, there is no way that I will qualify," he said.

The DNC said nothing has changed in the qualifying principles the party initially agreed to with TV networks. CBS has not announced its criteria for the next debate. 

Lessig has continuously lamented the struggle to get into the debate as a Catch-22.

"I may be known in tiny corners in the tubes of the Internet, but I am not well known to the general public generally. Our only chance to make this issue central to the 2016 presidential election was to be in those debates," he said.

--This report was updated at 3:07 p.m.