After a disappointing showing on Super Tuesday, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney announced that he has suspended his presidential campaign. After huddling with his advisors all day Wednesday to consider the future of his bid, Romney made the announcement Thursday afternoon at the annual gathering of conservative activists, the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., according to CNN.
Thanking the 4 million people who voted for him and the 11 states that have given him their nods, Romney, 60, conceded in the introduction to his CPAC speech that he was struggling because Senator John McCain has won 13 states and more votes, and "because size does matter, he's doing quite a bit better with the amount of delegates he's got." The address hit many of the hot-button issues that are important to conservatives, from the sanctity of religion and the importance of protecting marriage as a heterosexual institution to cutting down on wasteful government spending, lowering corporate taxes and standing up to "voracious" unions.
Sounding at first as if he would continue to fight against what he termed the "face of liberalism" — referring to Democratic front-runners Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — Romney said, "Even though we face an uphill fight, I know that many in this room are behind my campaign," to the raucous cheers of the gathered party faithful. "Today we are a nation at war and Barack and Hillary have made their intentions clear regarding Iraq and the war on terror. They would retreat, declare defeat and the consequences of that would be devastating. It would mean attacks on America."
Finally, near the end of the address, when the mere mention of McCain's name brought a loud chorus of boos, Romney said he disagrees with the Arizona senator on a number of issues, but that he agrees on doing whatever it takes to be successful in Iraq and finding and executing Osama bin Laden. "Now, if I fight on with my campaign all the way to the convention ... I want you to know, I've given this a lot of thought ... I forestall the launch of a national campaign, and frankly I'd be making it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win. Frankly, in this time of war I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror. This isn't an easy decision. I hate to lose. ... If this were only about me, I would go on, but it's never been only about me. I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America in this time of war I feel I have to step aside for our party and for our country."
During his address, Romney did not endorse McCain or mention former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee at all.
McCain is scheduled to address the same group later today. By suspending his campaign, Romney does not give up his delegates, but the decision on how to allocate those delegates is left up to the state parties, according to CNN, unlike on the Democratic side, where a candidate who suspends their campaign is technically still a candidate and can keep their delegates.
Romney was seen by many in the Republican Party as the lesser of two evils, given the widespread dislike of Republican front-runner, McCain, among conservatives. But Romney's background as a Mormon and questions about his flip-flopping on issues, including abortion and gay rights, had caused some hand-wringing within the party too.
Coming out of Super Tuesday, where McCain swept winner-take-all contests in a number of Northeast states and California, Romney was trailing far behind McCain in the delegate count, 714 to 293, with Huckabee even further behind at 190, according to The Associated Press tally. It was reported that Romney spent $30- $40 million of his own money on the campaign.
Even as it became clear that he would not score the kind of victories he needed in order to catch up to McCain on Super Tuesday, Romney sounded like a man who was in it for the long haul when he addressed his supporters Tuesday night. "The one thing that's clear is this campaign's going on!" he said.
CNN said that Romney began considering dropping out on Wednesday and made the final decision on Thursday, when he realized it was almost impossible to catch up to McCain and did not want to damage his future political career by being seen as "Mean Mitt," the man who beat up on the expected nominee.
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