WASHINGTON (CBSMiami/AP) – Mitt Romney will not run for the White House.
Three weeks after unexpectedly saying he was considering a third campaign for the White House, the former Massachusetts governor told members of his staff during a Friday conference call that he is out of race.
“After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee,” Romney said in a statement, which he planned to read to supporters on the call.
Barry University political science professor Sean Foreman said Romney may have realized he waffled too long, and allowed too much of his fundraising support and key staff to leave for Jeb Bush.
“He just wasn’t going to have the support that he was going to need to run a credible race,” Foreman said.
Miami-Dade Republican Party Chairman Nelson Diaz said he admires Romney and believes he would make a great president. Diaz said, however, that the GOP has a stable of qualified candidates, men, women and Hispanics, capable of taking on a Democrat in 2016.
“We’ve got a whole lot of candidates,” Diaz said. “Unlike the Democratic party that I think right now has two old white women that are potentially going to seek the nomination.
Following Romney’s announcement, former governor Jeb Bush put the following on Facebook, “Mitt Romney has been a leader in our party for many years. There are few people who have worked harder to elect Republicans across the country than he has. Though I’m sure today’s decision was not easy, I know that Mitt Romney will never stop advocating for renewing America’s promise through upward mobility, encouraging free enterprise and strengthening our national defense. Mitt is a patriot and I join many in hoping his days of serving our nation and our party are not over. I look forward to working with him to ensure all Americans have a chance to rise up. Columba and I wish Mitt, Ann and their entire family the very best.”
The former governor of Massachusetts had jumped back into the presidential discussion on Jan. 10, when he surprised a small group of former donors at a meeting in New York by telling them he was eyeing a third run for the White House.
It was a monumental change for Romney, who since losing the 2012 election to President Barack Obama had repeatedly told all who asked that his career in politics was over and that he would not again run for president.
In the days since that meeting in New York, which caught several in attendance off-guard, Romney made calls to former fundraisers, staff and supporters, and gave three public speeches in which he outlined his potential vision for another campaign.
“I’m thinking about how I can help the country,” he told hundreds of students Wednesday night at Mississippi State University.
In that speech, and what amounted to a campaign stop a few hours before at a barbeque restaurant with Mississippi State’s football coach Dan Mullen in tow, Romney sounded every bit like a politician preparing to run for president.
“We need to restore opportunity, particularly for the middle class,” Romney said. “You deserve a job that can repay all you’ve spent and borrowed to go to college.”
But as Romney sounded out his former team about putting together a new national campaign, he discovered that several of his past fundraisers had already made plans for 2016 and were committed to supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Several key former Romney donors told The Associated Press this week that in Bush they see someone who can successfully serve as president, as they believe Romney could. But they also think Bush has the personality and senior staff needed to win the White House, something the former Massachusetts governor could not bring together in his two previous presidential campaigns.
“I’ve got great respect for Gov. Romney, and I busted my buns for him,” said Chicago investor Craig Duchossois, whose wife contributed $250,000 to a pro-Romney super PAC while he collected tens of thousands more for Romney’s last campaign. “But I have turned the page.”
Romney also lost one of his most trusted political advisers on Thursday when David Kochel joined Bush’s team. Kochel, who led Romney’s campaign in Iowa in 2008 and 2012, is in now line to play a senior role in Bush’s campaign should he run.
Romney’s inner circle was surprised to lose Kochel, whom a Bush spokesman called one of “the most respected strategists” in the country.
The exit of Romney from the campaign most immediately benefits the other favorites of the party’s establishment wing, including Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
The more conservative side of the field is largely unchanged, with a group of candidates that will likely include Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)