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Friday, January 30, 2015

Romney not running

By JAMES HOHMANN & LUCY MCCALMONT | 01/30/2015 07:27 AM EST | Updated: 01/30/2015 11:43 AM EST

Mitt Romney will not run a third time for president, he will announce Friday on a conference call with donors, sources familiar with his plans told POLITICO.

"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 will say on the call.

Top GOP sources said that Romney flinched at Jeb Bush's strength in fundraising and early polling. Just Thursday, the former Florida governor poached a close Romney adviser who had run his 2012 Iowa campaign.

Those closest to Romney have pushed him hard to run, especially his main fundraisers and some of his strategists from last time. But there was very little encouragement from outside of his inner circle.

In the three weeks since Romney floated a trial balloon during a meeting with donors in New York, the response has been mostly negative among early-state activists, conservative thought leaders in the media and a swath of donors who feel like Romney had his chance.

Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt has posted the text of Romney's remarks on the conference call.

On the call with donors, Romney planned to express a high degree of confidence that he "could win the nomination." He insisted that his finance team and political team found encouraging signs. Romney noted that polls show he is leading in the first four states that kick off the nominating process.

"So I am convinced that we could win the nomination, but fully realize it would have been a difficult test and a hard fight," he said in his prepared remarks. "I would have the best chance of beating the eventual Democrat nominee, but that is before the other contenders have had the opportunity to take their message to the voters."

Romney does not name the names of other candidates, but he does say it is time for a new generation of Republican leaders - perhaps an implicit rub at Bush.

"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 Democratic nominee," Romney planned to say on the call. "In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case."

Romney, a former Bain Capital executive, approached a potential third campaign by trying to think pragmatically about whether he should run. He believes that he's the strongest candidate to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to those who have spoken with him, but he's also watched this month as the base of the party has responded harshly to the trial balloon he's floated. Romney knows that winning the nomination would not be easy.

At this point in 2011, Romney had a big team in place. This time, he's been much slower in revving up. He's relying on a close-knit circle of family, including his son Tagg, and key advisers from last time.

On Thursday, it emerged that Dave Kochel -- who ran Iowa for Romney in 2012 -- has defected to Jeb Bush. The New York Times reported that he'll move to Florida and will become Bush's national campaign manager.

Near the end of the donor call, according to his prepared remarks, Romney said it "seems unlikely" that he will change his mind. He said he will not organize a new political action committee, take donations or hire a campaign team.

"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," Romney said in his prepared remarks for the call. "But we believe it is for the best of the party and the nation."

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