Former Massachusetts Gov. and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney will not run for president in 2016, he told supporters on a conference call Friday.
“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,” he said.
Mr. Romney, who also ran in 2008, had been leading in many of the early polls on the 2016 GOP presidential contest and said he’s convinced he could win the nomination, but that he realizes it would have been a difficult test and a hard fight.
He had made waves by telling donors several weeks ago he was considering running for president again, and made subsequent public appearances at the Republican National Committee’s recent winter meetings in California and in Mississippi this week.
But he said in the remarks first obtained by radio host Hugh Hewitt he believes that one of the GOP’s “next generation” of leaders who might not be as well known as he is may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democratic nominee.
“In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case,” he said.
One of Mr. Romney’s top would-be rivals is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the son and brother of two former U.S. presidents, who is also exploring a bid.
In a statement posted to his Facebook page, Mr. Bush called Mr. Romney a “patriot” who has been a leader in the Republican Party for many years.
“There are few people who have worked harder to elect Republicans across the country than he has,” Mr. Bush said. “Though I’m sure today’s decision was not easy, I know that Mitt Romney will never stop advocating for renewing America’s promise through upward mobility, encouraging free enterprise and strengthening our national defense.”
The announcement could free up a number of big-money donors who might have been torn between Mr. Romney and Mr. Bush, or a candidate like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Mr. Romney, who until recently had repeatedly ruled out a third run at the White House, also said it seems “unlikely” that there could be any circumstances that might develop that could change his mind.