Romney Won't Run for President in 2016

Romney Won't Run for President in 2016
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For Mitt Romney, the third time will not be the charm when it comes to winning the White House.

A few weeks after telling donors and friends he wanted to run again, the 2012 Republican nominee ultimately decided to step aside.

“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,” he told supporters on a conference call Friday, according to prepared remarks.

Romney said it was “unlikely” he would change his mind this time, and noted that he is not forming a political action committee and is not hiring campaign staff. The Romney news comes after one former top adviser, Dave Kochel of Iowa, announced he was joining the Jeb Bush team.

Bush and Romney met last week in Utah, and the two were considered top rivals in the establishment lane of the Republican 2016 primary. Bush accelerated the primary process late last year by forming a leadership PAC and announcing his interest in running for the White House. Bush’s moves complicated the path for Romney, as many supporters and donors of the former nominee favored the former Florida governor.

But the rivalry between the two might still persist. Notably, Romney said in his remarks to donors on Friday that he believed the next GOP leader would be one “who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started.”

Romney's exit from the crowded GOP primary creates more room for Bush, to be sure. But it also creates an opening for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is vying for establishment support.

For his part, Bush called Romney "a patriot." In a statement, Bush said "There are few people who have worked harder to elect Republicans across the country than he has."

Romney also remains convinced he could have won the nomination, telling supporters he was more than financially competitive and lead in early state polls.

“I am convinced that we could win the nomination, but fully realize it would have been difficult test and a hard fight,” he said.

The former nominee also said that his recent focus on poverty and economic mobility would have given him “the best chance” of defeating the Democratic nominee in 2016. “But that is before the other contenders have had the opportunity to take their message to the voters,” he said, according to the text.

Over the past month, and even after his meeting with Bush, Romney pressed on in drumming up support for a bid. Earlier this week, he gave a speech in Mississippi where he focused on economic mobility and foreign policy while taking swipes at Hillary Clinton. On Thursday, President Obama jabbed his former rival, telling House Democrats at a retreat in Philadelphia: "We've got a former presidential candidate on the other side who suddenly is just deeply concerned about poverty, That's great! Let's go! Come on! Let's do something about it!" Romney struck back on Twitter, saying: “Mr. Obama, wonder why my concern about poverty? The record number of poor in your term, and your record of failure to remedy.”

Romney had cultivated good will among his party by helping candidates during the 2014 campaign. Almost all of the candidates he endorsed won their primaries and elections. But when he announced he wanted to run again, the writing on the wall became clear, as many in the party believed he already had his chance and wanted someone new to step forward. Even former Romney supporters were not shy about their voicing concerns about a third bid.

In the end, Romney decided his best 2016 play would be to stay on the sidelines. While he wanted to be president, he said, “I do not want to make it more difficult for someone else to emerge who may have a better chance of becoming that president.”

His remarks illustrated the torment of his decision-making process and how elusive the presidency had become for him. “You can’t imagine how hard it is for Ann and me to step aside, especially knowing of your support and the support of so many people across the country,” he said. “But we believe it is for the best of the party and the nation.” 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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