- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2004

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, the former House Democratic leader and a 14-term congressman, said yesterday that he was abandoning his second bid for the presidency after a fourth-place showing in the Iowa caucuses.

“I gave this campaign everything I had in me,” Mr. Gephardt said at a news conference, his voice breaking at times. “Today, my pursuit of the presidency has reached its end. I’m withdrawing as a candidate and returning to private life after a long time in the warm light of public service.”

Mr. Gephardt said he would serve out his final year in Congress and would continue to work for universal health care coverage, pension reform, energy independence and a trade policy that “doesn’t sacrifice American jobs.”

His decision left seven candidates vying for the Democratic nomination. In bowing out, the Missourian did not endorse any of his rivals.

Mr. Gephardt, who turns 63 at the end of the month, said he looked forward to spending more time with his family. “The silver lining in all of this is that I’ll finally get to see them at every opportunity, rather than when opportunities could be found.

“Jane, Matt, Chrissy and Kate,” he said, pausing as his voice cracked, “are my life and to them I’ll always be grateful.”

In 1988, Mr. Gephardt won the Iowa caucuses in his first unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination. On Monday, despite a strong field organization and union endorsements, Mr. Gephardt finished fourth in Iowa, behind Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

Mr. Gephardt’s poor performance in Iowa was expected to create interest among the Democratic presidential rivals in the Feb. 3 presidential primary in his home state of Missouri, where the winner could capture 74 pledged delegates.

Mr. Gephardt remains on the ballot — the deadline for withdrawal was Dec. 23 — and Missouri Gov. Bob Holden, a Democrat, said in a telephone interview that he and other Gephardt followers were waiting to see which of the other candidates the congressman prefers, if any.

“I don’t know if he’s going to encourage people to vote for someone else or stay with him,” Mr. Holden said. “Dick has got to take his 30 years of public service and decide how he’s going to proceed.”

Mr. Gephardt was Democratic majority leader in the House in 1994, then became the head of a shocked minority after a Republican landslide the same year shifted control. He spent the next six years attempting to win back the majority, falling short each time.

He stepped down as Democratic leader after the 2002 midterm elections, in which Republicans gained seats.

Mr. Gephardt was a pragmatic politician who campaigned as a man with working-class roots. On the stump, he nearly always mentioned his father, a Teamster milk-truck driver, and his mother, a secretary — neither of whom finished high school.

Although Mr. Gephardt was an experienced Capitol Hill insider, he argued that he was a man with new ideas for running the country.

He campaigned aggressively as an opponent of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the China trade deal, arguing that they were responsible for thousands of job losses, often to overseas sweatshops that employed child labor.

Mr. Gephardt also campaigned to repeal President Bush’s tax cuts and use the money to help extend health care to all Americans. It was a personal and a political issue. He called his proposal “Matt’s plan” after his son, who was diagnosed with cancer as a toddler but survived.

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