Romney Announces He Is Dropping Out of GOP Race
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney announced
today he will suspend his campaign for the Republican
He revealed his decision during a a speech to the
Conservative Political Action Committee conference a
few minutes ago in Washington, D.C.
"I must now stand aside, for our party and our
country," Romney said. "If I fight on in my campaign,
all the way to the convention, I would forestall the
launch of a national campaign and make it more likely
that Senator Clinton or Obama would win."
"And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my
campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror,"
"This is not an easy decision for me," Romney added. "
I hate to lose. My family, my friends and our
supporters... many of you right here in this room...
have given a great deal to get me where I have a shot
at becoming President. If this were only about me, I
would go on. But I entered this race because I love
Romney called his finance committee just before
addressing the conservative gathering. His decision
follows Romney's disappointing showing on Tuesday,
when he picked up a number of states in the West but
fell short in critical battlegrounds that would have
established him as the primary challenger to Sen. John
"Numbers are numbers," said one senior Romney
strategist. "It was impossible to get them to add up."
"The party is more important than any one candidate,"
the source added.
McCain emerged from the Super Tuesday contest with
more than 700 delegates to the party's national
convention -- or three times the total for Romney or
former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. McCain is
fewer than 500 delegates short of what he needs to
lock up the GOP presidential nomination.
For Romney, the decision ends a roller-coaster bid for
the presidency that began several years ago.
Little known outside of his homestate of
Massachusetts, Romney put together a top-tier campaign
team and began spending money on organizations and ads
in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire last
spring. While some of his opponents pooh poohed that
decision, it paid dividends for Romney, whose standing
in the polls immediately shot upward.
He maintained those leads for much of the summer and
into the fall, even though his own advisers
acknowledged that his support -- especially among
conservatives -- was shallow. The rise of former
governor Mike Huckabee (Ark.) in Iowa was a major
problem for Romney, who had premised his campaign on
an ability to sweep the early states.
Huckabee's victory, followed by the comeback win for
McCain in New Hampshire, put Romney's campaign in
serious peril. He vowed to continue on, however, and
won two states -- Michigan and Nevada -- that seemed
to reassert his role as a top tier contender.
In South Carolina's Jan. 19 primary, Romney was
eclipsed by McCain and Huckabee despite spending
millions on organization and campaign ads. Florida was
the next battleground, but Romney came up short in the
Sunshine State primary to McCain.
Even with that setback, Romney continued to plow his
own millions into the race -- funding ads in
California and other states that voted on Feb. 5.
Disappointment followed though as McCain won nearly
every contested state -- including California -- and
Romney's hopes of consolidating conservatives behind
his candidacy was vanquished by the stronger than
expected showing of Huckabee in the south.
In the end, Romney, a businessman, likely decided that
the path to win the nomination was too narrow to
justify further expenditures of his own money.
According to reports filed with the Federal Election
Commission covered campaign contributions and
expenditures through the end of 2007, Romney had
donated $37.5 million of his own money to the contest.
He likely spent considerable more so far this year.
His net worth has been estimated at between $250 and
Romney's departure from the contest leaves three
candidates still standing: McCain, Huckabee and Rep.
Ron Paul (Texas). But, Romney was the last candidate
in the race with the financial wherewithal to make a
serious run at McCain and, with him dropping out, the
Arizona senator is now the odds-on favorite to be the
Republican presidential nominee.
Significant pressure will likely be brought to bear on
Huckabee, who enjoys a good relationship with McCain,
to bow out of the race an unify behind a single
candidate. It was not immediately clear whether he
will accede to that pressure.
McCain campaign spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said the
campaign would not comment on Romney's decision until
the Arizona senator addressed the conservative
conference -- a speech scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern
time. McCain supporters who gathered at the Omni
Shoreham in downtown Washington in advance of that
speech could barely contain their glee when the news
of Romney's decision broke.
For McCain, that speech will be in essence the start
of the general election campaign. Despite a series of
wins on Super Tuesday as well victories in key early
states including South Carolina, Florida and New
Hampshire, McCain has struggled to convince
conservatives he is one of them due to his seeming
apostasy on a range of issues including illegal
immigration and campaign finance reform.
In recent days, McCain had been lambasted by
conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh for an
alleged lack of conservative credentials. Limbaugh had
urged conservatives to line up behind Romney. But
backing from Limbaugh and other conservative radio
talk show hosts did little to help lift Romney's
profile in Tuesday's coast-to-coast primary elections
With Romney out of the race and Huckabee unlikely to
be able to compete with McCain in terms of fundraising
or campaign organization, conservatives who had
resisted McCain must decide whether to line up behind
him as the nominee, find some other third party
candidate to support or abstain from participating.
The narrowing of the Republican field represents a
stark contrast to the protracted nomination fight
under way on the Democratic side. Both Sens. Hillary
Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) are
digging in for an extended state-by-state battle that
could extend to Pennsylvania's April 22 primary or
By Eric Pianin | February 7, 2008; 1:35 PM ET