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Kerry decides against 2008 presidential run

Story Highlights

• Kerry announces he won't seek presidential nomination
• Senator says he wants to concentrate on ending Iraq war
• 2004 nominee has struggled to gain support for another run
• Nearly half of Democrats say they don't want him as the 2008 nominee
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, announced Wednesday that he will skip a second run for the White House to concentrate on bringing the war in Iraq to an end.

"As someone who made the mistake of voting for the resolution that gave the president the authority to go to war, I feel the weight of personal responsibility to act to devote time and energy to the national dialogue and an effort to limit this war and bring our participation to a conclusion," he said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Kerry voted for the congressional resolution authorizing the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but later turned against the war and was mocked as a "flip-flopper" during his 2004 challenge to President Bush. (Watch Kerry's voice falter as he explains his decision Video)

He lost the popular vote by 51 percent to 48 percent and fell 18 electoral votes short of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

A source close to Kerry said the four-term Massachusetts senator made his decision within the past day.

The 2008 race has already drawn more than a dozen contenders from both parties, and a Democratic operative who worked for him in 2004 told CNN that Kerry "came to the realization a lot of people want something new." (Who's running, who's not)

A decorated Navy officer in Vietnam who became a prominent critic of the conflict, Kerry famously asked a Senate committee in 1971, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" He repeated that question Wednesday, telling colleagues, "I never thought that I would be reliving the need to ask that question again."

He called Bush's plan to send another 21,500 troops to Iraq "folly" and "a tragic mistake."

He added that he would support a bill by his Massachusetts colleague, Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, to require Bush to seek fresh authorization to send additional troops to Iraq.

"I intend to devote all my efforts and energies over the coming two years not to another race for the presidency for myself, but to doing whatever I can to ensure that the next president can take the oath with a reasonable prospect of success for him or her -- for the United States," he said. (Watch how the war has changed since 2003 Video)

He trailed several other Democrats in a recent CNN/Opinion Research poll, drawing 5 percent support among registered Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents.

In addition, the operative said people close to Kerry advised him that fundraising would be tougher and that many party activists who supported him last time were signing up with other candidates.

In October, he was forced to apologize for telling college students that if they didn't study hard, they would end up "stuck in Iraq." But he said Republicans deliberately misrepresented his "poorly stated joke" as a slur against U.S. troops, when he said it was aimed at the president.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, taken over the weekend, found Kerry running behind New York senator and former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who led the field of Democratic candidates with 34 percent; Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, with 18 percent; Kerry's 2004 running mate, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who got 15 percent; and former Vice President Al Gore, the party's 2000 presidential nominee, with 10 percent.

In addition, 51 percent of those polled said they did not want him to launch another campaign.

Pollsters questioned 467 people from Friday through Sunday. The survey had a sampling error of 4.5 percentage points.

CNN's John King, Ed Henry and Mark Preston contributed to this report.

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