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Defeat Unusual for Romney
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Defeat Unusual for Romney

Election 2008

Defeat Unusual for Romney

Defeat Unusual for Romney
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Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney dropped out of the presidential race Thursday. It was a rare defeat for an otherwise successful businessman, politician and Olympic Games chairman.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

The Republican presidential contest is all but over and Senator John McCain is the likely nominee. McCain spoke yesterday to a conservative group in Washington, D.C., a group he's kept at arm's length in the past.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): I hope you'll pardon my absence last year and understand that I intended no personal insult to any of you. I was merely - I was merely preoccupied with the business of trying to escape the distinction of pre-season frontrunner for the Republican nomination, which I'm sure some of you observed I managed to do in fairly short order. But now I again have the privilege of that distinction, and this time I would prefer to hold on to it for a little while.

MONTAGNE: Senator John McCain is likely to hold on this time, now that his chief rival for the nomination formally ended his campaign. Massachusetts Governor - former Governor Mitt Romney left the race after falling far behind McCain in the delegate race on Super Tuesday. Romney's departure marks a rare defeat for the man who made his fortune in business and achieved fame with his rescue of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Too often in the presidential race, though, Romney was forced to settle for a silver medal, as he put it. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Romney announced he was getting out of the presidential race in Washington at a gathering of conservatives. He said it was thanks to their help that a little known former governor had won more than four million primary votes. But, Romney said, much as his supporters would like him to keep fighting for the nomination, staying in the race now would only help the Democrats.

Mr. MITT ROMNEY (Former Republican Governor, Massachusetts): If this were only about me, I'd go on, but it's never been only about me. I entered this race - I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America in this time of war I feel I have to now stand aside for our party and for our country.

(Soundbite of boos)

HORSLEY: Among those booing Romney's decision was Michele Dettweiler(ph), a stay-at-home mom from Virginia. She says Romney inspired her to get actively involved in politics for the first time in 20 years.

Ms. MICHELE DETTWEILER: I'm just heartsick today that we conservatives didn't rally around him sooner.

HORSLEY: Romney had counted on support from social and fiscal conservatives in Iowa and New Hampshire to score some early victories and ride that momentum to the nomination. But at every turn he found someone in his way. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses, siphoning off support from a large number of Christian evangelicals.

Huckabee had campaigned in Iowa accusing Romney of being a latecomer to the social conservatives' cause.

Mr. MIKE HUCKABEE (Former Republican Governor, Arkansas; Presidential Candidate): Some people when they run for office, they'll come up with a whole bunch of new views that they just decided to get because it seems like it might work in Iowa. Some of us come to you with the views that we've had because they're convictions. They're not political conveniences.

HORSLEY: Romney's change of heart on issues like abortion and gay rights did leave lingering doubts about his authenticity. While some conservatives embraced his newfound commitment, New Hampshire voter Roberta Barrett found it hard to trust him.

Ms. ROBERTA BARRETT (Voter, New Hampshire): Let's see, let's be tactful. I think when he was governor of Massachusetts he was a very liberal Republican. Now he's trying to be a very conservative Republican. It doesn't work. And I just don't think we want somebody to buy the election.

HORSLEY: Romney's personal fortune enabled his campaign to spend $86 million last year, more than twice as much as John McCain. Forty cents of every dollar came from Romney's own pocket, and as outside contributions dwindled, he put more of his own money in. Here he is speaking in late September.

Mr. ROMNEY: This for me is a race I'm investing in at least as much as everybody else, probably a lot more. And I'm not beholden to any particular group for getting me in this race or for getting me elected. My family, that's the only group I'm really beholden to, their willingness to let their inheritance slip away dollar by dollar.

HORSLEY: Despite all that spending, Romney managed only a second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary. It was another disappointing silver. Romney did win the Michigan primary the following week thanks in part to strong family ties. He was born there and his father was a popular governor. Romney also stressed his business know-how as a cure for Michigan's struggling economy, and he continued to hammer away at that economic theme in that hotly contested Florida primary.

Mr. ROMNEY: I've been in the real economy, I will use that experience to keep America's economy the strongest in the world.

(Soundbite of cheering)

HORSLEY: McCain won Florida though and its prize of 57 delegates. By then it was time for Romney to make some economic decisions of his own. He continued to campaign through Super Tuesday but he didn't invest the huge sums in television advertising that he had in Iowa, New Hampshire and Florida. By the time Tuesday's votes were counted, McCain had a virtually insurmountable lead in the race for delegates, and Romney, the businessman who always says study the numbers, could see that for him they didn't add up.

Scott Horsley, NPR News.

Hillary Clinton recently loaned her presidential campaign $5 million, while Mitt Romney poured about $40 million into his race by the end. You can read about the successes and follies of personal fortunes and political campaigns at NPR.org/elections.

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Mitt Romney Drops Out of GOP Presidential Race

Mitt Romney Announces He's Discontinuing His Campaign
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John Dickerson of Slate.com Discusses What Went Wrong for Romney on 'Day to Day'
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Mitt Romney announced he was suspending his presidential campaign on Thursday, a move that all but cedes the Republican nomination to rival Sen. John McCain.

Romney — a former Massachusetts governor who spent $35 million of his own money in pursuit of the White House, as well as millions more that he raised from others — told the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., that dropping out was for the good of the Republican Party, which needs to unite for the general election.

"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 (Barack) Obama would win," he said. "And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror."

Romney added that it was not an easy decision for him. "I hate to lose. My family, my friends and our sponsors ... have given a great deal."

"I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America, I feel I must now stand aside, for our party, and for our country," he said.

With McCain's apparently unassailable lead in the delegate count, Romney's withdrawal effectively hands the nomination to the maverick Arizona senator.

Romney's departure leaves only former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas Rep. Ron Paul in the race with McCain. Neither of them comes close to the 1,191 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination.

Overall, McCain has 707 delegates, Romney 294 and Huckabee 195. Romney did not say what he will do with the delegates he has won so far.

Romney failed to win a major primary or caucus. He was successful in states he has lived in and states close by. But he failed to win over Republican evangelicals suspicious of his Mormon faith, who turned instead to Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister.

Romney was also accused of flip-flopping from relatively liberal to conservative positions.

Romney often called himself the "conservative's conservative" and has frequently assailed McCain's moderate credentials. On Thursday, Romney gave McCain qualified praise but did not offer an endorsement.

"I disagree with Sen. McCain on a number of issues, as you know. But I agree with him on doing whatever it takes to be successful in Iraq, on finding and executing Osama bin Laden, and on eliminating al-Qaida and terror," Romney said.

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