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Gephardt formally bows out of Campaign 2004

A tearful Gephardt announces the end of his political career Tuesday.
A tearful Gephardt announces the end of his political career Tuesday.

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Dick Gephardt announces his withdrawal from the race.
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Richard A. Gephardt
Democratic Party
Iowa caucuses

(CNN) -- Rep. Dick Gephardt, a fourth-place finisher in the Iowa caucuses where he once had been considered the man to beat, formally announced Tuesday he is withdrawing from the Democratic presidential race.

"Today my pursuit of the presidency has reached its end," Gephardt said during a news conference in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. "I'm withdrawing as a candidate and returning to private life after a long time in the warm light of public service."

On Monday night, CNN projected that Gephardt was the choice of only 11 percent of Iowa caucus-goers, while 38 percent chose Sen. John Kerry, 32 percent were for Sen. John Edwards and 18 percent went for former Vermont governor Howard Dean. (Full story)

Recent polls had shown Gephardt running fifth place or worse in New Hampshire, where voters there go to the polls for a primary next Tuesday. And back in 1988 when he won Iowa, he went on to finish third in New Hampshire and then ran out of money.

Gephardt had expected to finish well in Iowa this year. He represents the neighboring state of Missouri and spent a lot of time in Iowa even before the primary season began. He had also won the state caucuses in 1988 during an unsuccessful quest for the Democratic presidential nomination.

He had described Iowa as a must-win contest for him to continue in the 2004 race for the White House and just before the caucuses began, Gephardt predicted he would win.

"We think we're going to have a victory, and we're excited about it," he told CNN less than an hour before the caucuses began.

But former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, himself a two-time Iowa winner on the GOP ticket, told CNN a few hours later that Gephardt's presidential ambitions were coming to a rapid end.

"I think his campaign is probably over," Dole said.

During his concession speech Monday night, Gephardt vowed, "the fight for the working people is in my bones and I will never leave your side, fighting for justice for America's workers and America's workers are what makes this country what it is."

Gephardt has always been the candidate of people who work with their hands; 18 mostly industrial unions backed him --auto workers, machinists, Teamsters. But while Gephardt had strong labor support in Iowa, he was unable to capitalize on that support with other constituents.

"It was pretty clear to me in the past couple days that we were the entire operation," a labor source said. "There wasn't the enthusiasm for Dick."

That may be because the landscape has changed since 1988; there are fewer blue-collar workers in the party, more college graduates.

But Gephardt singled out union workers as he said goodbye to his supporters.

"I want to say a special thank you to every member of every labor union in this country who has stood by my side throughout my career. Your fight is my fight and it will always be that way."

CNN political analyst Jeff Greenfield contributed to this report.

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