Romney Quits the Race

Mitt Romney announced he was suspending his presidential campaign Thursday, a move that all but cedes the Republican nomination to rival John McCain.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

ALEX COHEN, host:

And Alex Cohen. Coming up, inside the billion-dollar presidential campaign. Even the rich candidates are cutting it close to the bone.

CHADWICK: First to the richest candidate. Make that former candidate. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, says he is suspending his campaign for president. This news came a little after noon today in Washington. NPR's Ken Rudin joins us now.

Ken, you're the senior political editor. What do you make of all this?

KEN RUDIN: Well, it's really not a surprise. Mitt Romney spent at least $35 million out of his own pocket hoping to be the Republican nominee. He never got the traction that he needed to get. He tried to woo over conservative voters, saying he's pro-life, anti-stem cells, anti-gay marriage. But when he was governor of Massachusetts, he was pro-choice.

In the beginning he ran against Ted Kennedy for the Senate in 1994 as a pro-choice candidate. So the question of authenticity has hurt Mitt Romney from the beginning.

CHADWICK: And that of course plays in favor of the man he's been running against, Senator McCain, who's seen as a very authentic guy. Is this it for him now? Has he got it?

RUDIN: You're talking about John McCain?

CHADWICK: Yes.

RUDIN: Well, of course Mike Huckabee is still in the race and you can make the case that with Mitt Romney out, maybe conservatives may coalesce behind Mike Huckabee, because conservatives are still very wary about John McCain on immigration policy, on campaign finance reform, things like that.

But ultimately, if you look at the victories, if you look at the momentum that John McCain has, it's hard to see that he can be stopped in his bid for the nomination.

CHADWICK: Governor Romney had managed to accumulate, what, a couple of hundred delegates? What happens to them now?

RUDIN: Well, you know, he says he's suspending his campaign. He didn't say he's withdrawn as a candidate. So theoretically he could hold on to these delegates, but ultimately these delegates will probably unite behind the Republican frontrunner; ultimately it's always been the Republican way of operating, that they like to coalesce early behind somebody. They did it with Reagan, with Nixon, with both Bushes, and (unintelligible) John McCain.

But you know, there was something interesting that Mitt Romney in his - in his meeting today, his speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. He said that he - I hope to join you many, many times in the future. And a lot of people are already talking about a possible Romney candidacy in 2012.

CHADWICK: Now, Ken, how is this going to change things for Senator Clinton and Senator Obama and the Democrats?

RUDIN: Well, it's hard to make the case that the Romney withdrawal changes much, but here is one thing it does do. If John McCain needs to spend a lot of time winning over conservatives, that means he has to move to the right, and it delays his strategy of trying to appeal to the independents in the middle of the political spectrum.

If John McCain no longer needs to worry about the conservatives, and that's - of course that's not completely true - but if he has more time to woo over the independents, that could be bad news for the Democrats in November, especially with the fact that the Obama vs. Clinton race is going on, as it looks like it will be doing.

CHADWICK: NPR political editor Ken Rudin with us from Washington. Ken, thank you so much.

RUDIN: Thanks, Alex.

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