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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will not make a third run for president, he told supporters on a Friday morning call, saying he believes it’s “best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity” to become the nominee.
Romney acknowledged during the call that he may not have been the strongest contender for the GOP in a general election, and said that was the primary motivation behind his decision.
“I feel that it is critical that America elect a conservative leader to become our next president. You know that I have wanted to be that president. But I do not want to make it more difficult for someone else to emerge who may have a better chance of becoming that president,” he said.
The 2012 GOP nominee said on the call that he’ll “do whatever I can” to help elect that person — and attempted to tamp down any further speculation over whether he’ll change his mind.
“That seems unlikely,” he said. “Accordingly, I’m not organizing a PAC or taking donations; I’m not hiring a campaign team.”
Romney said that while he’s “convinced that we could win the nomination … it would have been a difficult test and a hard fight.”
“Our finance calls made it clear that we would have enough funding to be more than competitive. With few exceptions, our field political leadership is ready and enthusiastic about a new race. And the reaction of Republican voters across the country was both surprising and heartening,” he said, noting early primary polling that’s had him leading the potential GOP primary field.
But since his surprise announcement to donors earlier this month that he was interested in making another bid, Romney has had a rocky start.
He’s faced deep skepticism from some quarters within the party, including some of his major donors and former campaign aides. Many expressed concerns that Romney wasn’t the best option to take on expected Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, whom the GOP plans to portray as old news and out of touch — both characterizations that could dog the former Massachusetts governor if he runs again as well.
And the decision this week of a top Romney operative in Iowa to sign up with Bush’s campaign was the latest in a series of defections, raising doubts on Romney’s chances going forward.
But Romney’s decision not to run doesn’t remove him from the 2016 calculus. Rather, it sets him up as a certain kingmaker in the wide-open GOP primary, as he still holds sway over many major donors and has deep respect within the party.
And it solidifies former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s position as the preferred candidate of the establishment in the GOP primary, improving his chances in the overall fight. A wide array of conservative contenders are expected to jump in the race and will jockey for position; Romney’s exit leaves just Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as the clear establishment contenders.
Bush used his social media accounts Friday to praise Romney’s decision.
“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,” Bush posted on his Facebook wall Friday after the announcement came. “Mitt is a patriot and I join many in hoping his days of serving our nation and our party are not over.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has said his decision to run for the Republican nomination will be based on two things: his family and whether he can lift America's spirit. His father and brother are former Presidents.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has created a political committee that will help him travel and raise money while he considers a 2016 bid. Additionally, billionaire businessman David Koch said in a private gathering in Manhattan this month that he wants Walker to be the next president, but he doesn't plan to back anyone in the primaries.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is establishing a committee to formally explore a White House bid. "If I run, my candidacy will be based on the idea that the American people are ready to try a dramatically different direction," he said in a news release provided to CNN on Monday, May 18.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats, has said the United States needs a "political revolution" of working-class Americans looking to take back control of the government from billionaires. He first announced the run in an email to supporters early on the morning of Thursday, April 30.
On March 2, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson announced the launch of an exploratory committee. The move will allow him to raise money that could eventually be transferred to an official presidential campaign and indicates he is on track with stated plans to formally announce a bid in May.
Hillary Clinton launched her presidential bid Sunday, April 12, through a video message on social media. She continues to be considered the overwhelming front-runner among possible 2016 Democratic presidential candidates.
Sen. Marco Rubio announced his bid for the 2016 presidency on Monday, April 13, a day after Hillary Clinton, with a rally in Florida. He's a Republican rising star from Florida who swept into office in 2010 on the back of tea party fervor. But his support of comprehensive immigration reform, which passed the Senate but has stalled in the House, has led some in his party to sour on his prospects.
Lincoln Chafee, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat former governor and senator of Rhode Island, said he's running for president on Thursday, April 16, as a Democrat, but his spokeswoman said the campaign is still in the presidential exploratory committee stages.
Vice President Joe Biden has twice before made unsuccessful bids for the Oval Office -- in 1988 and 2008. A former senator known for his foreign policy and national security expertise, Biden made the rounds on the morning shows recently and said he thinks he'd "make a good President."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has started a series of town halls in New Hampshire to test the presidential waters, becoming more comfortable talking about national issues and staking out positions on hot topic debates.
Sen. Rand Paul officially announced his presidential bid on Tuesday, April 7, at a rally in Louisville, Kentucky. The tea party favorite probably will have to address previous controversies that include comments on civil rights, a plagiarism allegation and his assertion that the top NSA official lied to Congress about surveillance.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz announced his 2016 presidential bid on Monday, March 23, in a speech at Liberty University. The first-term Republican and tea party darling is considered a gifted orator and smart politician. He is best known in the Senate for his marathon filibuster over defunding Obamacare.
Democrat Martin O'Malley, the former Maryland governor, released a "buzzy" political video in November 2013 in tandem with visits to New Hampshire. He also headlined a Democratic Party event in South Carolina, which holds the first Southern primary.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a social conservative, gave Mitt Romney his toughest challenge in the nomination fight last time out and has made trips recently to early voting states, including Iowa and South Carolina.