DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson abandoned his long shot bid for the White House late Sunday evening, after he did not meet the expectations he set for himself in the Iowa Republican Party straw poll held one day before.
"I want to thank the people of Iowa who were welcoming and supportive as well as my volunteers and contributors from around the country," Thompson said in a statement released by his presidential campaign. "I have no regrets about running. I felt my record as Governor of Wisconsin and Secretary of Health and Human Services gave me the experience I needed to serve as President, but I respect the decision of the voters."
Thompson, who served in President Bush's cabinet in the first term, came in sixth out of 11 candidates listed on the ballot of the state GOP sanctioned straw poll held in Ames. (See full results below) Since entering the race, Thompson focused a large part of his message on reforming the nation's healthcare system. But his campaign never caught fire.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the straw poll convincingly, a testament to the amount of money and resources he has spent so far in the state and particularly on the straw poll. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee came in a surprising second and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback took the third spot.
Romney's win was slightly overshadowed by the fact that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson chose to skip the event.
But the straw poll is considered a good indicator of how well organized campaigns are in Iowa. Romney's campaign advisors believe a win in the Iowa caucuses will help cement the former governor's status as the frontrunner on the road to the GOP presidential nomination, which could be wrapped up on February 5. The Iowa caucuses are currently scheduled to be held on Jan. 14, but will likely move to the first week of that month. More than 20 states could hold nominating contests on Feb. 5 and nominees in both parties are expected to emerge from this day.
Thompson, too, had spent a lot of time in Iowa, but never could match the resources Romney invested in the Hawkeye State. Prior to the straw poll, Thompson stated he would have to leave the race if he performed poorly. He stood by his vow.
"I have very much enjoyed my years in public service and I am comforted by the fact that I think I made a difference for people during that time," Thompson said in the prepared statement. "I hope to continue working to serve others over the next few years."
Thompson's campaign said the former governor would return to the "private sector." He is the second Republican to drop out of the race for the White House. In July, former Virginia Jim Gilmore decided to end his quest for the GOP nomination.
That leaves eight Republicans officially vying for their party's nomination, while people wait to see when the other Thompson might make it nine again. The former Tennessee senator is expected to formally announce his plan to run for the White House next month.
Brownback is another candidate who is likely to reevaluate whether to stay in the race for the GOP nomination. The Kansas senator competed fiercely with Huckabee for the support of social conservatives and Huckabee beat him in the straw poll even though he spent less money. Other candidates such as California Rep. Duncan Hunter plan to continue in their quest for the GOP nomination despite not winning one of the top three spots.
"This is just a start for us, because this is the first real week we have done in Iowa," Hunter said in an interview with CNN Saturday prior to the results being reported. "We look at this as a good start."
- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston
Iowa Republican Party straw poll results:
MITT ROMNEY: 4,516 VOTES 31.6%
MIKE HUCKABEE: 2,587 VOTES 18.1%
SAM BROWNBACK 2,192 VOTES 15.3%
TOM TANCREDO 1,961 VOTES 13.7%
RON PAUL 1,305 VOTES 9.1%
TOMMY THOMPSON 1,039 VOTES 7.3%
FRED THOMPSON 203 VOTES 1.4%
RUDY GIULIANI 183 VOTES 1.3%
DUNCAN HUNTER 174 VOTES 1.2%
JOHN MCCAIN 101 VOTES .7%
JOHN COX 41 VOTES .3%
14,302 TOTAL BALLOTS CAST