When it’s time to leave a race for public office, candidates often announce their “suspended campaign” instead of actually dropping out.
Practically speaking, there is not a big difference and federal law does not define or officially recognize the act of a presidential candidate “suspending” their campaign instead of formally ending it.
However, CNN points out there are two important differences between suspending a campaign and dropping out: delegates and money.
“Candidates who suspend their campaigns usually get to keep any delegates they’ve won and can continue to raise money beyond what’s needed to retire their campaign debts. In contrast, candidates who actually drop out of a race, usually have to forfeit certain delegates and are limited in how they can raise future funds.”
There’s one more reason to “suspend” a campaign: In theory, a suspended campaign could spring back to life if the political landscape changes dramatically.
Slate observes the phrase “has been employed at least as far back as the 1970s and continues to serve as the most popular way for candidates to end their primary bids without closing down their campaign committees.”