Romney not running: Former GOP nominee out of 2016 race – U-T San Diego


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FILE – In this Nov. 2, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gestures as he campaigns at Screen Machine Industries, in Etna, Ohio. Romney will not run for president in 2016. 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. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)The Associated Press

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FILE – In this Nov. 2, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gestures as he campaigns at Screen Machine Industries, in Etna, Ohio. Romney will not run for president in 2016. 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. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

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FILE – In this Nov. 2, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, his wife Ann Romney, and Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, greet supporters at a campaign stop at The Square at Union Centre in West Chester, Ohio. Romney will not run for president in 2016. 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. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)The Associated Press

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FILE – In this Nov. 2, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, his wife Ann Romney, and Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, greet supporters at a campaign stop at The Square at Union Centre in West Chester, Ohio. Romney will not run for president in 2016. 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. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mitt Romney ended his rollercoaster return to presidential politics on Friday, declaring his party would be better served by the “next generation of Republican leaders” and concluding his unlikely comeback as suddenly as it began.

Aides said it was a deeply personal and even painful decision for the 2012 Republican presidential nominee. He insisted he could win the next election if he ran, but his announcement followed a three-week fact-finding effort that revealed significant resistance to a third campaign.

“I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, 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, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee,” Romney told supporters on a conference call. “In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.”

The remark was both a recognition of his own limitations and an indirect swipe at the man who created the urgency behind Romney’s brief flirtation with a third presidential campaign. That is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the son and brother of former presidents, who is speeding toward a campaign of his own.

Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would have served as Romney’s most likely rivals for the support of the GOP establishment, and both men felt an immediate impact. The announcement sparked a rush of activity by Romney loyalists — operatives and donors alike — suddenly freed to support another White House hopeful as the crowded 2016 field begins to take shape.

Devoted Romney supporter Bill Kunkler, part of Chicago’s wealthy Crown family, said he was disappointed by Friday’s news but now was all-in for Bush.

“I’ll work for Jeb. Period. And no one else,” Kunkler said, noting that he planned to attend a Feb. 18 Chicago fundraiser for Bush hosted by former Romney backers.

Bobbie Kilberg, a top GOP fundraiser based in Virginia, quickly settled on Christie.

“We had long and deep ties and friendship with Mitt,” she said. “That has changed obviously, at 11 o’clock this morning.”

Romney’s aides insist there was no specific incident that caused Friday’s abrupt announcement, which came during a late morning conference call with close supporters and former staffers.

The former Massachusetts governor, who is 67, shocked the political world three weeks earlier, when signaled interest in a third presidential run during a private meeting with former donors in New York.

That followed what aides describe as several months of strong encouragement from Republicans as he toured the country raising money and energy for GOP colleagues.

“No one asked McCain to run again,” said longtime Romney aide Ron Kaufman, a reference to 2008 nominee John McCain. “Thousands of people asked Mitt to run again.”

The surprise announcement of Romney’s interest three weeks ago in the office of New York Jets owner Woody Johnson was the first public step in a fact-finding mission meant to assess the 2016 outlook. Romney, a longtime business executive, has typically followed a scientific approach to challenges — political and otherwise — and demanded data before making a decision.

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