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)
  1. john

    I was hoping he would spend all his money and still lose.

    So long mr corporaton!

    February 7, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  2. erik

    Boy, do I hope McCain wins the republican nomination. I am a democrat and I do not think he has a chance to win the general election. Many conservatives who I know say that they will not vote if he is nominated. Also, can you imagine the debates between Obama (who I think will win the nomination for the dems), a youthful, inspiring, and extremely articulate senator, and McCain, an old man who does not have half the charisma of Obama. A lot of the independents that McCain is going to be courting to win the general election will not stand with him for those reasons.

    McCain cannot gather the support of his own party — how is he supposed to unite a nation?

    February 7, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  3. david

    the war in iraq had nothing to do with the war on terror. Bush was just helping his saudi pals get rid of one of their enemies.

    clinton will contiuned this war in iraq barack will end it.

    February 7, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  4. Clint

    McCain & Huckabee double teamed Mitt. Watch McCain pick Huckabee for his VP, that's what they had planned all along.

    February 7, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  5. Nor-Kann

    I don't want to add to all the anger and animosity already posted here. I will just say this is a sad day for America. Two days after the Dow fell 370 points and economists announced that we officially are in a recession, the only candidate who has the knowledge, skill set and experience to turn things around and restore our country to economic greatness drops out of the race.

    Mitt is a brilliant individual, a gentleman, an outstanding family man and someone who was active in his church. We were fortunate to have him in the race. Mitt achieved at the highest levels at everything he set his mind to. He is a man of singular gifts, and I've no doubt he would have been one of our greatest presidents. Thank you, Mitt, for the sacrifice you and your family made out of your love for our country.

    I am a lifelong Republican, and my next comment is directed to the established GOP order, which championed McCain. I want you to know I am now supporting Barack Obama. Our party is going to lose in November, and it's a defeat we well deserve. It's almost as though you couldn't run Bush for a third term, so you chose the next closest thing.

    For those who wonder why I, a lifelong Republican, now favor Barack, it's this. I love his message of uniting America. Barack is an intelligent, thoughtful individual who has shown remarkable judgment in this race. I'm particularly impressed by the respect he shows to those with whom he disagrees. He has behaved far more admirably in this race than McCain or Hillary.

    Good luck, Barack, and stick to your message of bringing us together. You might have friends in places where you would least expect.

    February 7, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  6. Born Again

    News flash for Contentbelle.....Do you seriously think a conservative born-again "James Dobson" evangelical Baptist would EVER, EVER vote for Romney???

    Now, maybe Romney can find a career in selling used cars.

    February 7, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  7. Jason L. Hubsch

    Holy Huckabee! This is great news! Now those who complain that McCain is too liberal can get behind Mike Huckabee as the true Conservative candidate! Go Huckabee!

    February 7, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  8. David

    “I vote the party, not the person.”

    That statement shows just how pathetic the vast majority of members of both the Republican and Democratic Parties are.

    February 7, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  9. LM

    CO said: "Any moron who says "I vote the party, not the person" should have their voter registration revoked and told to come back when they have some common sense."

    Firstly, LOL.

    Secondly, he probably just ran out of his fun/campaign money. What was it $35 mil? It wasn't fun spending anymore when going got tough..

    Clinton 08!

    February 7, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  10. Ryan W

    First of all folks, get it right. We are not "in time of war". Congress never declared war. They simply gave the President authority. This was wrong and unconstitutional.

    Second, we will never get rid of all the terrorists. It's impossible to do seeing how our actions in the region are creating more terrorists by the day. Military force is not always the answer. Since we can't destroy, we must control and that can and should be done through diplomatic means not the sacrifice of more of our men and women.

    This kind of talk from a candidate is the worst kind of pandering. Does anyone honestly believe that Obama or Hillary wants to declare "surrender"?

    It's funny how the war-hawks will never really explain what victory is, but anyone that disagrees with them is in favor of "surrender".

    This is insanity and I'm glad there is one less wealthy scum bag in the race.

    February 7, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  11. Ryan in Idaho

    Contentbelle- that was the most incomprehensible thing I have ever read. We've had a republican in the white house for eight years now and all it has lead to are wars, recession, higher taxes (for those of us that don't make millions a year), and a debt so high it will take decades before we see another surplus. By my estimation it would be difficult to screw things up more than they already are, so we might as well give the democrats another shot at the White House and see what they can do with it, even thought there is no guarantee that McCain won't win it come November.

    February 7, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  12. April

    We Huck supporters can say the same about Romney, Contentbelle. If he would have left earlier, then Huck would be the frontrunner. Trying to destroy Huck's chances because Romney couldn't stand to spend any more of his own money is not Huckabee's fault. They both had the same chances to win support, but Romney spent TENS OF MILLIONS more than Huck, and still didn't get any more support then he did. I didn't agree with Romney on most things, but he was a honorable man, and I would definitly have voted for him over McCain if Huck wan't in the race. McCain is a Dem in Rep clothing. So please, Huck has not slammed on anyone else, not even Romney, so please refrain from slamming on him until you know everything about him.

    February 7, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  13. KG

    No offense, but I think we've had enough of a wild ride over the past seven years...and it's because we all have motion sickness that McCain is the man for the Republican party. I have to say, I have never been so proud! It's proof that our system works. We do not yield to far right extremists who live and breathe the party line and force their faux-morality on the rest of us. I am happy to sit back and watch the far-right squirm as our country moves in the right-nay, correct-direction.

    February 7, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  14. Annie

    Mitt Romney did the gracefull thing, his supporters however, need to learn a few manners.

    I'm constantly amazed that *some* Republicans think you must be a Conservative, anti-choice Bible thumper to join the GOP. Guess what – there are a lot of us who are Moderate and still managed to register as Republicans. The Right Wingers may choose to be a "Conservative first and a Republican second", but for Moderates, we're Americans first and Republicans second.

    February 7, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  15. Jen

    It stinks but it makes sense. For McCain to win either Obama or Hillary, he needs to roll up his sleeves sooner than later. McCain's stance on Iraq is virtually his ONLY difference between the dems. The November election is going to come down to whether voters want to pull out of Iraq no matter what or stay until we can ensure some type of success and secure ally in the fight against terror. I agree with Romney that we have to stay in Iraq until we have met the benchmarks for success and Hillary and Obama don't think so.

    AMERICAN voters really MISSED out this time around. Mitt was hands down the BEST candidate to revamp immigration, the economy, social security– all of it. He is the only one that has DONE the things they're all talking about doing. Whether is was media bias, bigotry– whatever. People weren't ready for Mitt to lead, but I bet in a few years when NO ONE has been able to deliver STILL– he will be there ready to pick up the pieces again.

    He didn't have the delegates, and he didn't want to spend any more money, but I RESENT the media not acknowledging him swallowing his pride and that he IS backing out for the good of the country– NOT just these things.

    I appreciate him going through what he has and getting this far. It's depressing to me that the people in this country are STILL ignorant enough to not be ready to elect a Mormon President. His religion has NOTHING to do with his skills and ability to do the job– other than influence him to be a moral person. He can believe in his religion and live and let live unlike ALL those evangelicals out there who HATE Mormons. By their fruits... The LDS church doesn't hold meetings about how to fight off the baptists. They are some of the most Christian-like people around and shame on any of you Christians arrogantly thinking you are better than them because they have different religious beliefs. Huckabee who wants to shove the bible down people's throats rather than let the constitution be the rule in this land scares me. He couldn't lead over those who believe other than he does, he has no tolerance for non-religious people. This is a land of religious freedom– members of the LDS church understand that and appreciate it, apparently Mitt Romney overestimated people's abillity to not be prejudice in choosing a secular leader– hugely disappointing.

    The Republicans need to seriously think about their VOTE. I don't know if I can bring myself to vote for McCain, I HATE the man– but we have to do what is best for the country and have the guts to do whatever it takes– like Mitt. Obama sounds great to everyone– but he is the MOST liberal senator and his Economics plan will RUIN us!! Please research it all and lets make good decisions this fall!! God HELP America!

    February 7, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  16. Alice in Florida

    Bobby writes:

    "Vote Hillary, most Middle East Countries treat women like dogs, just wait and see how they treat this country. The will have no mercy on the U.S. when Hillary is our leader. They will laugh while she tears up and they will shout" DEATH TO AMERICA"'


    Let me get this straight, Bobby. We should not vote for Hillary because the TERRORISTS won't like it??????????????????????? HUH????????

    They'll shout "Death to America?" Where have you been? Under a rock? They've been shouting that for years anyway.

    9/11 happened when a man was President.


    HILLARY IN 08 and 12!!!!!!!!!!

    February 7, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  17. Melissa

    The only reason he's suspending the campaign is so he does not have to conceed delegates to the other candidates, so he is still a candidate- not a drop out. I am waiting for him to hurry up and drop out since he cares so much about the party instead of himself. With all the trash he's talked about Huckabee I don't see him giving any endorsement or delegates. He also rants that MCCain isn't a conservative, so he will look like a REAL sell out if he endorses McCain for a vp post. Then again, he's NEVER even acknowledged Ron Paul even exists so I don't know how that can happen. Since he didn't win any of the "conservative south" on Tuesday he may be getting the hint: we know you have never been a conservative-we've seen your record in Taxachussetts!

    February 7, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  18. Jonathan, Florida

    Cathy: Why are you so scared of Huckabee?

    And any Republican calling Gov. Huckabee a liberal is silly and just a "soundbite" from someone who does not his record. He won hands down in Arkansas in the primary. They must still love him AFTER electing him 3 times to state office.

    I will vote for McCain over Obama or Clinton. But I think we still have a shot with someone more conservative in Huckabee. McCain is no where near getting enough delegates yet.

    February 7, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  19. Lisa

    To quote Howard Dean, "Ye, haw!!!"

    February 7, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  20. vm

    The real reason for opting out is that he already burnt $35 million of his cash and probably his missus threatened to quit on him !

    Seriously, he did right by cutting his 'losses' and blaming the democrats instead. After all, even if he wins, who knows if there will be any cash left in the treasury to loot ?

    February 7, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  21. David, Gilbert Arizona

    When Andrew Trout said he votes the party and not the person he is actually saying much more than what some of the posters here are giving him credit for. The republican party is pro-life. None of the democratic candidates are pro-life. republicans are strong on national security. Democrats want to cut and run.

    Those are just two of the key values conservatives hold dear. The democrats could care less about these values.

    Hillary makes statements that she wants abortions to be rare but her voting record says something very different. She supports federally funded abortions, voted no to require parental notification of minors seeking out of state abortions.

    And conservatives would actually vote for this type of person for President? Yeah right. When pigs fly.

    Mitt had a lot of issues, such as his flip flopping, but in the end I chose him as the best candidate to run this country. Now I'm stuck with McCain only because he represents my party values. Maybe McCain will stab Huckabee in the back and pick Romney as his running mate.

    February 7, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  22. Duane

    "I vote the party; not the person." Since when was THAT "herd mentality" something to be proud of? THINK for yourselves, Americans. Study the issues. Maybe this is what separates us "independents" from Republicans and Democrats. We vote for the person, not a political machine.

    February 7, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  23. 35millgone

    Glad to see that Romeny spent 35 mill of his own coin- good for him. After it became apparent from his latest comment about "surrendering to terrorists", I for one am GLAD he's off the list. That statement's got Karl Rove written all over it. As if a trillion more of our dollars and thousands more of our dead in Iraq will make it safer. Give me a break. Absolutely unbelievable.

    February 7, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  24. Jonathan, Florida

    Contentbelle: Actually – Romney is the spoiler. He did not win one southern state. You can't get to the White House without winning the south.

    Without Romney in – Huckabee would have soundly defeated McCain in S.C., Oklahoma and Missouri.

    I think it is safe to say 70% or more of Romney voters will go for Huckabee over McCain.

    February 7, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  25. Frank

    Mitt Romney might have flip flopped on issues, but still had more credibility than McCain and no I don't want Huckabust to be president. Ron Paul2008!

    February 7, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
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