February 7th, 2008
02:37 PM ET
15 years ago

Romney quits race, shocks supporters at CPAC

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/POLITICS/02/07/romney.campaign/art.mitt.romney.20.ap.jpg caption=" Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is suspending his campaign."]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

Filed under: Mitt Romney
soundoff (546 Responses)

    Romney should not quit he would win if Bush or Chaney would indorse McCain

    February 7, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  2. Jon S. Ann Arbor, Michigan

    So now GOPs are left with a "faux" right-winger", who deep down, can't stand the right. Tell me now, will you folks suck it up and vote for McCain anyway? I can't say I'm sad at the prospect of conservatives having to make that choice.

    I suppose you'll be happy, though, as it seems a forgone conclusion that McCain's concession to the right will be to pick Huckabee as his VP.

    As a Democrat, I thought there was no way anyone worse than Bush could ever be nominated. I guess Huckabee as VP would be pretty close.

    Imagine, a guy second in command, that close to the proverbial button, who interprets the Bible literally. Very, very scary.

    February 7, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  3. Donna

    Perhaps most do, but how sad to "vote the party, not the person!" If McCain is to become the mantra, then speak Republican as you choose, but not with the semantics of "father in the home and family values" ... that image simply does not belong to McCain. I've actually believed that Mitt Romney reflected "father in the home and family values" ... but that reflection vaporized when he handed his own retreat and defeat to McCain this morning.

    February 7, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  4. Chris Markria

    Even now, there are hateful people here who refuse to be mature. This is a good man and a great leader that loved this country. Some of you people should be ashamed.

    "God bless you for suspending your campaign; He didn't want you there anyway…"

    Who are you to know what God is thinking? You must be a moron.

    February 7, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  5. Ryan Sheppard

    Well, the Democrats want to turn the country into a socialist wellfare state, and the Republicans can't put the bible down long enough to realize how silly they sound pushing creationism.

    I couldn't vote for either party anyway, so this makes no difference.

    February 7, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  6. Bruno

    exactly what hillary should do in the interest of the party and in order to give place to the only movement that will attract enough independents and even attracts repulicans in order to win the november election.

    February 7, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  7. Kaycee23

    You can't blame the guy for trying. I mean, this ideology would make sense if America SUPPORTED continuing this war, however, since the vast majority do not, as voter polls and voter turn-out clearly indicate, all what he is essentially doing is saying 'hey, I failed. I have lost. My campaign did not inspire change and I must forfeit as I stand no chance at winning'.. he did this now because the 'Republican party' realize that the full momentum of this election is held by the democratic party and if they don't make some swift changes quickly, they stand EVEN LESS OF A CHANCE than they already have at electing a Republican in our Oval office starting 2009.

    Republicans stand no chance in this election. sorry. It won't happen no matter who decides to bail out of this primary. We will have a democratic president for next term.

    February 7, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  8. PJM

    Nice spin Mitt, but McCain has no chance against a united Democrate party, it is Bush and the Republican guard, opp party that is at fault. Mitt I thought it was about the economy, now its the war. No wonder your out.
    The war will end safely and honorably, but our economy needs fixing now that the Republicans have distroyed. McCain is no leader on the world stage.
    Go Hillary.

    February 7, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  9. Bonnie

    A great CEO never quits especially while in the mix of chaos. He/she continues to build trust and rapport and forges forward to achieve the goal. Romney portrayed himself as a CEO in both business and in government. His decision is not a good representation of a great CEO. He has let down all of his supporters. I hope others like me will not vote for McCain or they will get another Bush Whitehouse.

    February 7, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  10. SEH

    People were able to see Mitt Romney for what he is – a fake. He spent tons of his own money and historically when that happens, people don't like it. He changed his position so many times and said the "right" things just to get elected. I couldn't trust him.

    At least McCain is for real and sticks with his positions. That's why people like him.

    Maybe the Republican base isn't what it used to be – Reagan was in power 20 years ago folks. It's time to move ahead. America has changed and so must the Republican party!

    February 7, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  11. nick

    GO MCCAIN!!!

    February 7, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  12. P Anderson

    I watched Mitt Romney from the beginning of his run for the nomination.
    He represented the best values and the conservative wing has lost a great man. It behooves me that the party didn't support the best candidate, obviously they didn't listen to his message .

    A Canadian

    February 7, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  13. H. C. (Joe) Raymond

    I was really dissapointed when Mitt dopped out, of the race but I can understand his reason. He made it clear that he would continue to fight for American values. These values are:

    Strong Families

    Strong Economy

    Strong Military

    These are the things that will keep America strong. I encourage Romney Supporters and all Americans to continue to stand for these values and keep our Nation Strong.

    February 7, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  14. rodlang

    The republicans are in total disarray. Willard "flipper" Romney quits....the right wing base hates McCain and says they prefer Hillary...Huckabee thinks we should replace the Constitution with the Bible. They keep on talking about Reagan as if he is Lazarus and will rise from the grave. Having said all that, somehow...someway...the dems will shoot themselves in the foot and blow the election. They always do.

    February 7, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  15. trent

    this is AWESOME:

    “Barack and Hillary have made their intentions clear regarding Iraq and the war on terror. They would retreat and declare defeat,” said Romney.

    so, by mitt's logic ending an illegal war is somehow "surrendering to terrorsts"... is this guy for real??? if so, i'm absolutely GLAD that he's out of the race!!

    and now the saddest part is that the GOP "front runner" is EVEN WORSE THAN MITT!! WOW WE ARE SO DOOMED, WAKE UP GOD BLESS RON PAUL THE ONLY REAL REPUBLICAN!!!

    February 7, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  16. Mari Fernandez, Salt Lake City, UT

    How can anyone think that Romney was a viable candidate?! People, do your homework, BE INFORMED! Romney flip-flopped so many times no one really knew where he stood.

    Please take time to do your OWN homework and stop listening to AM-radio-hate-mongers.

    February 7, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  17. Teresa

    I weep for our nation today! Mitt Romney is truly the man we need in our White House. Surely, every intelligent conservative can see that.

    February 7, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  18. Iraq != Al Qaeda

    Dear Levi Patterson,
    You stated that Saddam killed 150/day. I'll take that at face value. At that rate, over 5 years, he would have killed 273,750.

    During the 5 years since we invaded Iraq we have killed many more than that. Estimates up to 1,000,000. It's hard to know for sure in the chaos but it's certainly more than 273k.

    And even for those who don't care about Iraqi lives, the lack of focus on Al Qaeda has allowed them to establish a safe haven in Pakistan.

    It's clear that invading Iraq was an error. It's not clear to me what the best course is from here, I can see merit both in staying and in leaving. I lean towards leaving, at least that way we are not condemning more soldiers to death, spending $100b+ per year, and inflaming more anti-American hatred. If the situation were close to success then perhaps it would be worthwhile to finish it, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

    February 7, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  19. rico

    I still think we're better off letting Clinton or Obama winning rather then give the mantle to John McCain who will surely ruin the Republican party. After what Bush has done to us, McCain would only make things even worse, perhaps forever destroying the party.

    Besides, I'm so disillusioned by Bush right now, we had 8 years of conservative rule and look where it got us. Maybe it is time to try something different. Let the dems try, if they fail we clean up in 2012, if not, well that means they did something right which is good for everyone.

    February 7, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  20. Don

    As a Republican I congratulate Romney for putting country over politics. The only real issue facing this country is foiling the attempt of the Democratic candidates from surrendering to the terrorists. In the Democratic debates the Iraq issue for Barack and Hillary came down to withdrawing US troops within 30 or 60 days of their taking office. Pathetic!!

    February 7, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  21. Pabaru Yackabuchi

    Now maybe Bush will hear this calling, I think he still loves America, and step down so this great country can move on for the American people, rather than funnel tax payer money to his cohorts in the war machine.

    February 7, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  22. Zaac

    Mike Huckabee should NOT concede. If real conservatives get behind him, he can win.

    February 7, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  23. nobody now

    No what do we do? Mccain the war machine? Huck screwed this all up!

    February 7, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  24. Paul

    In addition to my comment above, I wish to add that the time is almost right for McCain to do the brilliant thing: offer the vice president slot to Huckabee. I can think of no other substantive thing that would unite conservatives under McCain more than that.

    February 7, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  25. Matt, Cleveland OH

    Congratulations Democratic nominee (whoever it ends up being): you've just won the Presidency!!!!


    February 7, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
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