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. J Rockwell

    I'm still confused as why Mitt would even run for Pres. in the first place. His name got dragged through the mud and he's out $35 mil. Big mistake for a savy businessman. He should have take his money and bought an island somewhere and retired. Just goes to show that bigots and liberals posing as republicans have a better chance at a presidency. Only in America...

    February 7, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  2. Marie

    Romney would have made the best President!!! He would not have quit if he did not care about the American people, he is far to competitive, and hates to lose. People should grow up and stop the name calling, and the personal attacks on Romney and his church. It is intresting to me because I know that his church is the first to respond to many natural disasters and people in aid . Sounds like some good people to me.

    February 7, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  3. Joe2

    Good for the republicans. The sooner they get a single leadership campaign the better.

    February 7, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  4. NickNasc

    NO SHAME!! Just quit and go away with your head up high but NOOOOO Spread more LIES!!!!

    You War Mongers SHOCK the hell out of me. This war has done NOTHING but Kill people for no reason and make Bushs friends even RICHER!!! Why do you think they want it to go on??

    February 7, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  5. Miriam Freeman

    North Carolina hasn't even had the chance to vote yet, along with many other states, and now we don't even get a chance to vote for who we want because so many of them are quitting their campaigns.... This is SOOOOOO incredibly unfair. I'm sure Utah would have liked to have a chance to vote for Romney since they are mostly Mormon there, but it won't happen now. I thought this was America.... and a democracy.... and it looks to me like the definition is literally being re-written.... I am very angry about this. Other states are deciding FOR ME who I WANT, instead of the other way around. What a crock...

    February 7, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  6. Thank you Romney

    (Sarcastic) By the way. Romney did so badly in "taxachussets" that they decidedly voted to win the presidential bid.

    Also, Romney's suspension is not like a suspension on the democratic side. He dosen't keep his delegates. On the Republican side, decisions on how to allocate delegates is left to the state parties.

    Thanks again Romney. Most of the conservitive voters out there either believed that you were the real deal, or wanted to!

    February 7, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  7. E. Elliott, Orlando, FL

    Actually Alice, you are nearly right. Except that it was Bush pretending to be pres, not a man. Romney was saying the right things, as he thought on any given day. But he must have counted the numbers. Numbers of his own $$ not votes. He realized he could never be able to recoup that many millions spent from his own pocket.

    And the true Republicans can be thankful both that he is gone and that Ron Paul is a step closer.

    But no one honestly asking to become pres can continue the big lie. We have to stop the borrow and spend/give away trillions of $$ with nothing to show the next generation for their debt. Romney did not have guts to admit it but the next pres will have to raise taxes just as George H W Bush did. So let's be honest after 7 years of lies, just for the change.

    February 7, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  8. Romney in 2012!

    We saw today in Governor Romney's departure from the GOP primary race just what a powerful motivator love of country over self can be! He chose unity of the Republican Party without abandoning conservative principles, indeed he has become the rightful embodiment of the conservative movement. He went out in '08 as a the ROCKSTAR of CPAC and will be continue to champion conservative values and economic, military, and moral strength! I wish him and his great family well and sincerely hope to see their return to the national stage in the future!

    February 7, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  9. Daniel

    Bottom line...Mitt is the only candidate here who really didn't need this position. take all the "attacks out", all the negative media spin out....(I'm sick of the "he spent more money", someone needs to ask why media is so favorable & gives 100's of thousands in free press to other candidates as well...), this is a man that turns things around, this is a man who works extremely hard and he turns out to be very smart. I feel that Romney looks at the U.S. right now as a major project to fix and I really think he had a great shot to make some serious changes. Ultimately we need someone who can really better America, I think he really, really wanted to and could. Maybe next term.

    I hate McCain, I really do, his blatent lies right to America's face are largely ignored by the media. Two days ago he still claims Romney had a timetable for withdrawl set out...hmmm. At the same time, Romney is right, I am sure he hates to see McCain go on like this, but he is very well equiped to handle a major situation abroad and we need continued support in that area. He is doing this for the good of America.

    February 7, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  10. S. Henry Tx

    I strongly erge any of you who have not yet voted in your states primaries to consider Huckabee for your vote. The confidence he displayed on tuesday was phenominal. He is the only Rep with any momentum. McCains boring and tame speech was cut short by a raging Obama who said the Republicans believed in OLD politics and that we were the party of the past. This is a mountain we are up against and we all must believe in our leader. I believe in Mike Huckabee.

    February 7, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  11. Laura, Columbus OH

    The speech was beautiful and it made me proud to be an American.

    February 7, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  12. April

    fmf, you said "the Dem party doesn't have the forces tearing it apart from the inside. They are content with their diversity ". HA HA HA! Wasn't it just two weeks ago Hill and Obama were hating on each other over race? They only pretend kiss and made up for the super Tuesday race. You can bet it will start up again as soon as they run into each other.

    February 7, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  13. John - Toledo, Ohio

    All I want to know is.....what is James Dobson and the other "evangelical stalwarts" going to do now. The idea of voting for a person that has flipped on every linchpin conservative issue as opposed to supporting someone like Mike Huckabee from the beginning is crazy.

    Christians should stand on principle, not vote "the party".

    February 7, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  14. Ken

    He put his loyalty to his political party above his own personal code of ethics.

    February 7, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  15. Tomi from MA

    I am a registered independent leaning more towards GOP. It doesnt matter who drops out now or later. One thing is for sure, if my two choices came down to:

    McCain & Clinton, I am voting Clinton

    McCain & Obama, I'm voting Obama

    Huckabee & Clinton, I'm voting Huckabee

    Huckabee & Obama, I'm voting Huckabee

    I'm voting what makes sense to me as a person. McCain is a great guy, I just don't connect with him in any way. The last debate definitely confirmed that, as he appeared

    Voted Huck last tuesday, because I'm not impressed with Mitt's record in my home state, and I will not let talk show hosts like Jay Severin shove a candidate down my throat just because they think he's the right guy. Just my two cents!

    February 7, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  16. Dudley Fernandez

    Smart decision to quit. No point beating each other up and exposing your party's weakness to the "YES WE CAN".

    February 7, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  17. Michelle

    "surrender to terror?"

    Wow, up until now I thought he was just a little chump. Now I see he's a REALLY BIG chump. Goodbye and good riddance. Don't let the door hit you on your way out, Mitt.

    February 7, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  18. Shannon Shiflett

    "surrender to terror"? are people really so stupid as to buy into that fascist fear-tactic gimmick?

    February 7, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  19. Matt Canoga Park

    Thanks Mitt you showed you are a true gentleman today. Please help and suport John McCain now and help him get elected our next President. America needs him.

    February 7, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  20. K, Florida

    Hey Bobby;
    Tell that to Margaret Thatcher and Madelaine Albright! Go back under your rock now and be a good boy.

    February 7, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  21. EB Rideout, Georgia

    Gee, Mitt gave up before the battle even began.

    Rush and the other armchair patriots didn't help much, did they?

    February 7, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  22. John B.

    You know how we always wonder why the smart, successful, get it done executive guys don't ever run for public office? How you wonder if the people running are the best and the brightest?

    You eventually figure out that most of our elected officials are pretty ordinary, even less than ordinary, and perhaps wholly about their own political career rather than about doing the people's business. And then the pervasive cyncism overwhelms you.

    We had a chance to get one of the best and brightest. We had a chance to elect a proven problem solving executive. We had a chance to elect someone who can communicate. We had a chance to elect someone that doesn't need the office. We had a chance to get something done for a change.

    Romney is the best and the brightest. He is the first real executive that has a history of getting things done since, well, since who can remember when? What Washington has needed for many, many, many years. Romney is and was the real thing.

    We blew it. Now we need to cynically line up behind a decent, somewhat volatile, a little bit liberal, a little bit conservative, old career veteran bulldog politician with no real executive experience named John McCain. We need to hope he keeps to his words that he stands behind his conservative rhetoric rather than his less than conservative record. One who makes you wonder, where are the smart, really successful sharp candidates? One the makes you wonder "Is this the best we have to offer?"

    February 7, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  23. Joe from NC

    For the most part I agree with you. I think there is less of a "true Democrat" mindset in the Democratic party, but I have to bring this up. What about Joe Lieberman, who agreed with the Democrats on everything but Iraq and was defeated in the primary?

    February 7, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  24. Kate

    I am just sick. For the first time in my lifetime, I will not vote. I just can't bring myself to vote "against" Clinton or Obama and I can never vote for a Republican that is at least as liberal as Clinton and maybe more so. I realize that by not voting, I am voting for the Democratic nominee but I think it is morally wrong to vote against a candidate instead of for one. There is absolutely no one among the current political leadership that is fit to run our country. I just hope we actually have a country that looks even slightly like the United States of the past 230 years by the election in 2012.

    February 7, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  25. Jerry

    When I read this, I'm freaking out just thinking some people agree with that repugant person.

    February 7, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
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