WASHINGTON (CNN) – Mitt Romney ended his presidential run Thursday, telling a conservative audience that continuing the race against rival John McCain would make it more likely Democrats would win the White House - and “in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.”
Boos rose from the audience at the mention of McCain’s name – and shocked calls of “no!” as he made his announcement. One young man in a blue sports coat grasped his head in his hands, his mouth wide open as he watched Romney on-stage.
“Barack and Hillary have made their intentions clear regarding Iraq and the war on terror. They would retreat and declare defeat,” said Romney.
“And the consequence of that would be devastating. It would mean attacks on America, launched from safe havens that make Afghanistan under the Taliban look like child’s play. About this, I have no doubt.”
The former Massachusetts governor, who conceded the mathematical odds standing between him and the nomination, told activists gathered for the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington that “I must now stand aside, for our party and our country."
As his supporters filed out of the ballroom where Romney made the announcement, many carrying his campaign signs and merchandise, a moderator mentioned McCain’s upcoming CPAC speech – drawing an immediate and sustained chorus of boos from the crowd.
“I didn’t see this coming at all,” said Pennsylvania college student Andrew Coons, holding a Romney sign under his arm. “I was completely surprised. But this was an honorable thing for him to do.”
His friend Andrew Trout added that, despite hostility from many of conservative activists at CPAC this week, John McCain had a shot at winning their support – a great deal depended, he said, on the senator’s speech later Thursday afternoon. Romney represented conservative values better than anyone else in the race, he said, but ultimately “I vote the party, not the person.”
Related video: Romney: 'I hate to lose'
– CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
Great news, good bye and bad luck!
Couldn't CNN find a less attractive picture? Seriously.
Well, Romney's quitting isn't going to make me enamored to McCain's camp, because unlike Romney, I don't vote the party. I vote the person. If it's McCain vs. Obama, I'm leaning Obama. If it's McCain vs. Clinton, McCain will have to earn my vote.
but ultimately “I vote the party, not the person.”
WOW!!!!! Nothing like thinking for yourself, eh?
Mitt I believed in you. Dont insult your supporters by claiming your dropping out because of unity. Your really quitting because you must pay monies out of your pocket. What a waste of time. I have one question for you. Why did you say just the other day you would continue? Never Again will you get may support in anything you r
Good – you idiots – you don't like McCain all that well – so let's not vote and let the demos (either Hillary or Barack) get the White house. Won't that be wonderful and advance and protect the conservative ideals of self reliance, less government, etc.
What a wimp! What a quitter! And What a liar! This is all about the money. He has already spent $35 million of his family fortune for what? So he could be a quitter? This is why we need a long campaign cycle so we can really see what these people are made of. You can say a lot about McCain and Huckabee but quitter is not in their vocabulary.
Good riddance, Mitt.
I was leaning toward Mitt over all the other Republican candidates and after seeing that he really does care so much for our country and what a disaster a democrat victory next November would be. It is time to moved to the second best option. Based on Mitt 's message for conservitive unity and what is right for America I and I hope all intelligent Americans will back and elect John McCain as our next President.
I guess for now we'll all have to plug our noses. Please run again, Romney!
The odds were stacked against him so why spent millions more to continue the fight for the nomination? The writing was on the wall after Super Tuesday.
It now comes down to McCain vs either Obama or Clinton. Even with her many perceived and real faults, I'll go for experience over vision and hope this time around. He'll have his day.....
Mitt's exit speech defines why he couldn't win sufficient support. Disagreeing with the Iraq war, which 70% of Americans do, does not equate "surrendering to terrorists." Before the US military landed in Iraq there were no Al Queda and other countries (like Canada) are involved in Afghanistan, which is where the US should have focused its energy. This kind of outrageous hyperbole (lies is probably more accurate) explains why Mitt and his millions couldn't find traction. By the way – how many of his five sons served in the military?
This is a good thing. Romney was splitting true conservative votes, and now Huckabee can gather in all the votes. People need to start donating money to the cause...Obama, Hillary, and McCain are rolling in the dough. Conservatives need to cash in a CD and support Huckabee if we want a decent choice later this year.
"I vote the party not the person". And we wonder why our politcal system is so screwed up in this country.
None of these guys get it. We aren't fighting a war on terror, we're fighting a war on straw men because the Right needs to fight a war on terror. Unfortunately, the "straw" men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan bleed real blood, as do the soldiers we send to fight them.
You can't defeat terrorism by waging war on nations and you can't create a democracy at gunpoint.
We need a new paradigm: terrorism is defeated when it is irrelevant. We will defeat terrorism by doing justice in our foreign policy, becoming a good citizen among nations again as we have not been since the end of the Marshall plan.
If McCain wins, the nation and the world loses.
His supporters were shocked? Were they living under a rock? McCain (unfortunately) has the nominee in a walk. Mitt didn't have a prayer anyway.
I bet Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani wished they would have waited to throw in the towel. They'd be a good alternative to McKeating...I mean McCain.
I am so sad today but I will be backing the only conservative left in the race-Mike Huckabee. Please, America, stand up for conservative values and say no to John McCain.
It's a good thing Romney was running in the party of family values and high moral standing.
The advance nonsense down here in Texas clearly focuses on him being a Mormon, and it's being driven by the Baptist crowd to boot.
Congrats to Huckleberry for running interference for McCain; now he gets the VP slot!
This is a sad day.
But notice that he didn't speak about the economy that much...he probably didn' t want to pour salt in his supporters wounds by remindng them that the economy is now being left in the hands of an incompetent like McCain. I swear, if McCain even mentions Romney's name today, I'll vomit! I can hear it now...he'll praise romneys decision and talk about how he is such a good man blah blah blah...once again more lip service from McAmnesty. I would prefer he come out an express his distain for Romney, I would feel less disgusted by that!!
But where do we go from here? I guess I just don't care anymore.
And he exits with more Republican fear mongering. I thought he was above that. Guess not.
More politics of fear. I'm not buying it.
It appears Hillary and Mitt have something in common – neither have the capacity to campaign with a shred of Grace or Dignity. Honorable? If I could say something to that student, I'd suggest that the honorable thing to do would be to back the candidate of your party. Since day one, Mitt has crowned himself the next Ronald Regan – and he's not. He thinks he's better than we are...and that's a trend we've had quite enough of.
Shame on you, Mitt. You could have brought the party together. By acting like a child, you merely added to the fracture.
Looks like the Republicans have officially kicked off the "Vote for a Democrat and terrorists will kill us all" part of their campaign for the whitehouse.
Mitt Romney"s speech was excellent. What a sad day for America! What hurts the worst is that now his supporters will now go to Barrack Obama.
You can always count on a true conservative to use the fear factor. 911 was the GOP's dream come true. Fear and ignorance can be harnessed like........well solar energy (which clearly has not been harnessed during this run of record profits for big oil). Clearly the GOP have put all their energy into harnessing fear, keeping us hooked on foreign oil, and getting Exxon the biggest profits in history. Time for a change people, good bye Mitt, you'll be soon (like by the time this sentence is completely typed) forgotten all together.
Mitt Romney is not only a better candidate than McCain and Huckabee, he is also a lot more handsome.
..."I vote the party, not the person"
How ignorant is THAT! Try thinking for yourself a little.
As the McCain campaign has pointedly demonstrated, the concept of a united Republican Party is a falacy of the grandest proportions (same goes for the Democrats). Everything from the crowd's reaction at this "rally" at mentioning of John McCain, to the idiotic and... insane statements made by Limbaugh and Coulter, proves that the "house that Reagan built" currently stands on unstable pillars.
While the leader of a party sets the tone for just about everything it does, each constituent changes a party's feel and attitude a little bit according to that person's individual influence and personal idioms.
Free-thinking individuals shape and change things, not parties. The only way this is false is if people allow themselves to be herded and their wills' bent to the desires of others. Only animals like sheep, cows, and the like act this way, or at least SHOULD act this way. As every good conservative knows humans are not and never have been animals, right Gov. Huckabee...