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Romney Announces He Is Dropping Out of GOP Race

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://blog.washingtonpost.com/thefix/2008/02/romney_considering_dropping_ou.html?referrer=email Romney Announces He Is Dropping Out of GOP Race Former
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 7, 2008
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      http://blog.washingtonpost.com/thefix/2008/02/romney_considering_dropping_ou.html?referrer=email

      Romney Announces He Is Dropping Out of GOP Race

      Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney announced
      today he will suspend his campaign for the Republican
      presidential nomination.

      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,"
      he said.

      "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
      America."

      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
      McCain (R-Ariz.).

      "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
      $500 million.

      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
      and caucuses.

      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
      even beyond.

      By Eric Pianin | February 7, 2008; 1:35 PM ET
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