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(NEW YORK) — Marianne Williamson, the author and spiritualist who has been one of President Joe Biden’s few primary challengers in the 2024 presidential race, suspended and unsuspended her campaign last month — and now that she’s back in the race, she told ABC News that her focus is not on taking down Biden, but on bringing progressive ideas and discussions about them to the campaign trail.

Williamson suspended her campaign on Feb. 7 following a string of significant primary losses in early states. She said she didn’t have the resources to continue — however, she wasn’t yet ready to abandon her candidacy.

“I suspended because I had done very poorly on the electoral level in the first three primary states. So if you just look at this in terms of the horse race, it was time to get out,” Williamson said in an interview with ABC News on March 18 — one day before a round of primaries that delivered a blow to her campaign. She was on the ballot in three states, earning an average of 3.6%.

Williams said she soon realized her purpose as a presidential candidate wasn’t necessarily about victory (Biden is already the presumptive Democratic nominee) or even earning delegates (she has not accrued any this primary cycle), but about triggering discussion on the campaign trail to include topics such as universal healthcare, youth hunger or free tuition to public colleges. She said that without debates or significant discourse between the candidates in the primary race, these progressive ideas have been missing from the conversation.

Williamson reentered the 2024 presidential cycle on Feb. 28 — three weeks after she left the race. She unsuspended her campaign the day after she received more than 2,000 more votes in the Michigan Democratic primary than Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips, who was still a Democratic presidential candidate at the time.

She said she made the decision to restart her campaign ahead of Michigan’s contest — even traveling there to hold events ahead of the primary — but didn’t want to split votes between herself and the state’s growing coalition of Democrats who disapproved of the Biden administration’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war and were therefore voting for an “uncommitted” option.

“I was afraid that if I got in right then that it would look like I was challenging something,” Williamson said. “The morning after the Michigan primary, I got back in. Realizing the obvious limitations [to my candidacy] but also realizing that there’s a larger purpose here than trying to compete in the horse race.”

The second iteration of Williamson’s 2024 presidential platform is identical to her first — focused less on winning and more about ideas.

In the short time she was out of the race, the circumstances of the Democratic field had shifted so that she has emerged as a promising alternative for some Democrats disillusioned with Biden’s stance on the Israel-Hamas war, especially in places where an “uncommitted” option isn’t available on the ballot — considered a protest vote against Biden, who hasn’t achieved a cease-fire in Gaza.

Williamson has materialized as the candidate who will more aggressively pursue a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war as a longstanding proponent of peace between Israel and Palestinians and considered by many Palestinian supporters to be a stronger voice than Biden on the subject.

And in states like Virginia, Illinois and Arizona, where an “uncommitted” option wasn’t available to voters, cease-fire organizers encouraged Democratic voters to cast ballots for Williamson to represent their anti-Biden protest vote. They didn’t go as far as actually endorsing Williamson, however.

Williamson expressed gratitude for the groups that label her as the “cease-fire candidate.”

Liano Sharon and Nadia Ahmad, progressive Democratic National Committee delegates, recently threw their support behind Williamson. They cite her “unwavering commitment to advocating for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza and Palestine” as the primary reason for their endorsement.

Both are pledging to be automatic delegate votes at convention — meaning that in the unlikely scenario that Biden isn’t nominated on the first ballot at convention, Sharon and Ahmad would become superdelegates and support Williamson on the second ballot.

“The only way to be confident that you’re sending pro-cease-fire delegates to the convention is to vote for Marianne because she’s the only one on the ballot that’s pro-cease-fire,” Sharon, a DNC delegate for Michigan, said in an interview with ABC News.

“There are many things about Marianne that I think are really admirable. And there are some things that … I’m not so keen on. But in terms of getting cease-fire delegates to the convention, she’s the only way to do it,” he added.

Ahmad said she’s “actively getting other [ceasefire voters] to try to” endorse Williamson on a national scale.

Williamson, 71, is a best-selling self-help author who was catapulted to fame when Oprah Winfrey endorsed the now-candidate’s work through her book club and as sort of spiritual adviser on her show. She also ran for president in 2020.

Williamson was Biden’s first challenger in 2024. Now, after other dark-horse Democratic candidates Rep. Dean Phillips and progressive commentator Cenk Uygur have suspended their monthslong bids, Williamson is Biden’s last remaining primary opponent.

The DNC has thrown its support behind Biden and has not facilitated network debates ahead of the primary cycle. The national party, along with the Biden campaign, has engaged very little with Williamson’s candidacy, except in the very beginning when White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre jokingly dismissed her candidacy.

During a press briefing in March 2023, Jean-Pierre said she was “just not tracking” Williamson’s campaign, which had formally launched earlier that week.

When Williamson first sought the nomination in 2020, she participated in two primary debates and had the opportunity to make notable press appearances. This cycle has been a wholly different experience, she said. She said she has expressed intense frustration with her difficulty breaking through media markets, often taking to her own social media or Fox News to articulate her platform.

She said she’s been disenfranchised by not only the Democratic Party, but also state parties, who she claims — without clear evidence — have worked with DNC leadership to keep her off ballots states such as Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee. The state and national groups, for their part, unequivocally deny the allegation.

Last cycle, Williamson never experienced defeat. She left the race ahead of Iowa in 2020, ultimately endorsing Sen. Bernie Sanders and later Biden in the general election.

This cycle, she has placed in distant second or third behind Biden, and has not come close in any state to reaching the 15% threshold she’d need to earn a share of Democratic delegates.

The future of the Williamson campaign
Williamson and her “skeleton” campaign staff of just a few long-standing members of her team haven’t yet identified exactly where they might be able to gain delegates, she said. Instead, they’ve been traveling the country, putting on low-cost events in cities such as Chicago, New Orleans, Queens, New York, to get her message out.

She said she plans to remain in the race until the end of the primaries, which is in June, and that she will celebrate victories wherever they come.

“Look, I’m not delusional, and after going through this experience a couple of times, I’m not naive either. But the conversation matters,” she said.

She’s not raising money either. At the end of February, her campaign has more than $1 million of debt from loans she’s given herself, according to filings from the Federal Elections Commission. She ended February with just about $202,000 on hand, according to the FEC filings.

Williams said she is unsure about who she will support for president following her campaign.

When asked if she would engage in aiding any of the third-party candidates, Williamson responded that she wouldn’t do anything that would boost the candidacy of former President Donald Trump.

“My guiding principle is that I will not do anything that I feel increases the risk that Donald Trump will return to the White House,” she said. “That’s the bottom line for me.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect a clarification by Williamson regarding her position on third-party candidates.

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