- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin closed the door on a presidential run Wednesday, removing the last big question mark in the Republican presidential field one day after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced he would take a pass on a White House bid.

Taken together, the announcements from the two popular Republicans appear to have finally crystallized the fluid GOP presidential field and made way for the final chapters of the nomination contest, which has evolved into a verbal slugfest between Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

In her announcement, Mrs. Palin, the party’s 2008 vice-presidential nominee, who left her job as governor after just two years, said that after much prayer and serious consideration “I have decided that I will not be seeking the 2012 GOP nomination for president of the United States.

“I believe that at this time I can be more effective in a decisive role to help elect other true public servants to office from the nation’s governors to congressional seats and the presidency,” she said.

“We need to continue to actively and aggressively help those who will stop the “fundamental transformation” of our nation and instead seek the restoration of our greatness, our goodness and our constitutional republic based on the rule of law.”

The decision came on the same day that Mr. Perry and Texas Rep. Ron Paul shared their strong fundraising totals for the third quarter of the year, which runs from July 1 and Sept. 30 — suggesting they’ll be able to financially compete with the independent wealth of Mr. Romney, as the Republican presidential field heads into the all-important three-month stretch run before the primary season commences.

The Perry campaign said it had amassed $17 million in the first financial report that the three-term Texas governor has filed since entering the race in August. It represented some good news for a candidate following a few shaky debate performances and new polls that suggest his presidential stock is slipping, including among tea party voters.

Rob Johnson, Mr. Perry’s campaign manager, attributed the strong financial showing to his “principled, conservative leadership and vision to get America working.”

Gov. Perry deeply appreciates the energetic support and hard work of the thousands of Republican volunteers and activists who’ve helped us build a strong and growing organization in just seven weeks,” Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Paul, meanwhile, played up his grass-roots support during an appearance at the National Press Club, and his campaign highlighted the fact that the 12-term Texas congressman had received donations from more than 100,000 unique donors and Mr. Perry only 22,000.

“If you get $8 million, half as much [as Mr. Perry], and you get it from small individual donors who are fervently engaged in campaigning for you,” Mr. Paul said, “that is a little different than getting money that more likely might have come, for the other candidates, from the special interest.”

He added, that after serving on the House Financial Services Committee for several years that “bankers don’t come and donate me any money.”

“I wonder why? Because they know where I stand,” he said.

The other candidates have yet to roll out their fundraising numbers from the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30. When they do, the money chase will provide a snapshot of each candidate’s financial health as they march toward the Iowa caucuses and then New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, which begin the GOP nominating process.

On Wednesday, officials in the Romney camp refused to confirm news reports they have raised $13 million this quarter, but they were quick to point out that the $18.3 million the former Massachusetts governor raised in his first report topped that of Mr. Perry’s first haul in the race.

Rick Perry raised less than what Mitt Romney raised in the first quarter, and we feel good in the strength of our finance team and the fact that we are adding new people every day,” said Andrea Saul, a campaign spokeswoman.

National polls showed that if Mrs. Palin had jumped into the race, she would have been in the top tier of candidates, though she also consistently polled as one of the most polarizing figures in national politics. Still, she has enjoyed strong support among tea partyers, the grass-roots group that now must decide whether to back another hopeful in the race.

The latest polls also show Mr. Romney has regained the nominal lead in the race, while Mr. Perry is losing his edge, including among tea party voters.

Former Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Cain, meanwhile, is climbing the charts, thanks in large part to strong tea party support and his win in the Florida straw poll last month. And Mr. Paul continues to bounce between third and fourth place in recent polls.

Rep. Michele Bachmann’s camp also did not respond to a request for her third-quarter filing, which covers the period between July 1 and Sept. 30 and must be filed by Oct. 15. The three-term Minnesota congresswoman has struggled since she won the much-publicized Ames, Iowa, straw poll in August, which coincided with Mr. Perry’s entrance into the race.

After Mrs. Palin’s announcement Wednesday, Mr. Perry issued a statement calling her “a great American and a true patriot.”

“I respect her decision and know she will continue to be a strong voice for conservative values and needed change in Washington,” he said.

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