Mitt Romney announced Friday morning that he will not run for president in 2016.
Romney, who made the announcement during a statement by phone to supporters, withdrew from consideration even though he tops polls of potential candidates for the Republican nomination. His decision would most obviously seem to benefit Jeb Bush, who is seen as the other most palatable choice for moderates and establishment Republicans.
A copy of the statement was obtained by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
It what is being interpreted as a dig at Bush, Romney said he was ceding the stage to “the next generation” of GOP leaders:
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. In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.
I feel that it is critical that America elect a conservative leader to become our next president. You know that I have wanted to be that president. But I do not want to make it more difficult for someone else to emerge who may have a better chance of becoming that president. You can’t imagine how hard it is for Ann and me to step aside, especially knowing of your support and the support of so many people across the country. But we believe it is for the best of the Party and the nation.
But Romney’s statement was not entirely Shermanesque. Romney said he thought he could win, though he noted it would be difficult. And in response to the hypothetical question of whether “there are any circumstances whatsoever” might develop that would get him to change his mind, he said, “that seems unlikely.”
But alas, not impossible.