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Romney Ends Flirtation With 2016 Presidential Run
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Romney Ends Flirtation With 2016 Presidential Run

Politics

Romney Ends Flirtation With 2016 Presidential Run

Romney Ends Flirtation With 2016 Presidential Run
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After flirting with a third run for president, Mitt Romney now says he won't run in 2016. What does that mean for the rest of the GOP field?

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

It may only be January 2015, but the field of Republican presidential candidates is already taking shape. Today, Mitt Romney, the party's nominee in 2012, says he's out. NPR's Tamara Keith tells us why and who's helped by it.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: After three weeks of floating trial balloons, giving a few speeches and talking with potential donors and staff, Mitt Romney's flirtation with 2016 presidential bid ended before it ever really began.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONFERENCE CALL)

MITT ROMNEY: Good morning, everybody, this is Mitt.

KEITH: It was a conference call with supporters heard round the political world and even broadcast live on CNN.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONFERENCE CALL)

ROMNEY: After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I have decided it's best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee.

KEITH: In recent polls, Romney led a huge field of potential candidates, but that may have been more a result of name recognition and nostalgia than political excitement. Romney said, on the call, he was convinced he could win the nomination again and, this time, the presidency, but that it would be better for the party and the nation for him to step aside.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONFERENCE CALL)

ROMNEY: I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well-known as I am today, one who has not yet taken a message across the country, one who's just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee.

KEITH: Many interpreted this as a dig against Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and brother of George W. Bush, who is quickly cementing himself as the choice of establishment Republicans. Jeb Bush issued a statement on Facebook describing Romney as a patriot and saying he hopes Romney continues serving the nation and the Republican Party. Doug Gross, who served as Romney's Iowa chairman in 2008, says it was clear to him that Romney's time had passed.

DOUG GROSS: It was very obvious on the ground. I mean, people that had been with him previously, while they wanted to listen to his arguments, were puzzled as to why he would be interested in doing it again. They just really - they were looking for someone else at this point.

KEITH: Gross says Romney no doubt saw that the energy wasn't there anymore as he talked to donors and others.

GROSS: If it isn't you can see it by their eyes, if there's the flash of enthusiasm and intensity isn't there and it wasn't there this time,

KEITH: Romney's exit is good news for Bush, says Gross. The people he knows in Iowa who were Romney backers have Bush at the top of their list of candidates to look at closely. Peter Brown is assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

PETER BROWN: Presidential primary politics is the ultimate zero sum game. Every winner has a loser and vice versa. The winner today clearly is Jeb Bush.

KEITH: That's because Bush and Romney would both be going for the same sort of donors, advisers and even voters. Brown says another possible candidate - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie - is in that same moderate conservative lane.

BROWN: The fact that Romney has gotten out and Bush is in the process of locking up a lot of people forces Mr. Christie to make a decision perhaps earlier than he wants.

KEITH: And even with Romney out, the list of GOP candidates remains quite long. Let's just go with last names for the sake of time and in no particular order - Rubio, Paul, Cruz, Christie, Walker, Perry, Bush, Santorum, Huckabee, Carson, Jindal and maybe even Palin and Trump. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House.

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