Romney won't run for US president
01 February 2015, 06:58
Washington - Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said on Friday he will not run for the White House again in 2016, ending weeks of intense speculation that he would mount a third campaign.
"After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I've decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee," Romney said during a conference call with supporters.
"I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well-known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee."
The announcement essentially ends Romney's three-week public flirtation with a another run, after he came up short as the Republican nominee in 2012 and lost the nomination to Senator John McCain in 2008.
In early January he told donors he remained interested in the White House.
He subsequently gave two speeches laying out his vision for themes to embrace should Republicans want to regain the White House after eight years of President Barack Obama.
Romney, 67, said on Friday it was "unlikely" that circumstances would change his mind about running.
"Accordingly, I'm not... taking donations; I'm not hiring a campaign team," he said.
And yet Romney may have left the door open.
He expressed confidence he would have had enough funding to mount a campaign and noted he was well ahead in a recent Republican poll.
With his foreign policy focus and call for battling income inequality, "I would have the best chance of beating the eventual Democrat nominee," Romney said.
Kevin Madden, a Romney 2012 spokesperson, said he was "very surprised" by Romney bowing out.
"Every single indication we got" suggested another presidential run, Madden told CNN.
Boon for Jeb Bush
Potential candidate Jeb Bush, perhaps the person with the most to gain from Romney's departure because the two operate within the Republican establishment, was quick to praise his would-be rival as a "patriot" and party leader.
"Though I'm sure today's decision was not easy, I know that Mitt Romney will never stop advocating for renewing America's promise," Bush, a former Florida governor and the son and brother of two presidents, said in a statement.
Bush announced in December that he was "actively" exploring a presidential run.
Romney and Bush were destined early for a campaign clash, battling for crucial donor support and political endorsements, and hiring top campaign staff. The pair met in Utah last week.
"Politics is a zero sum game, (and) the winner is Jeb Bush," Quinnipiac University Poll assistant director Peter Brown told AFP of Romney's announcement.
"Bush just lost his major competitor to be the centre-right candidate in the Republican Party."
Romney, a wealthy businessman and former governor of Massachusetts, said in recent speeches that the party needed to make poverty alleviation a key campaign plank.
He amassed a fortune as a venture capitalist, and Obama's 2012 team successfully painted him as an out-of-touch millionaire.
Romney joked about his own financial comfort on Wednesday, saying money was no motivator for a presidential run.
"As you no doubt heard, I'm already rich," he quipped.
But when Obama took a swipe at Romney in an address to Democratic lawmakers on Thursday, mocking him for "suddenly (being) deeply concerned about poverty," Romney responded.
"Mr Obama, wonder why my concern about poverty? The record number of poor in your term, and your record of failure to remedy," the Republican tweeted.
A day later, the White House praised Romney for "tremendous loyalty" to his country, and as a party veteran could draw "more attention and focus on policies that actually benefit middle-class families".
Romney's 2012 campaign suffered when a tape surfaced of him saying "47%" of Americans would never vote for him because they were dependent on government benefits.
He also struggled to counter the image that was stuck on him in those primary battles and beyond - that of a policy flip-flopper with questionable concern for America's struggling middle class.
Romney would have faced a crowded political horse race for 2016, with a dozen Republicans poised to launch presidential campaigns.
One is Senator Rand Paul, who emitted the equivalent of a political sigh of relief on Twitter after Romney's withdrawal.
"I hope to work together with Mitt to grow our party and lead our country forward," Paul said.