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08 Feb 2008 06:06
John McCain effectively secured the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday when his main rival, Mitt Romney, near to tears, dropped out of the race. Only one person now stands between McCain and the United States presidency: the Democratic choice for the November election.
McCain now has a huge advantage over the Democrats, with potentially months to campaign for the White House as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama exhaust themselves in their battle for their party’s nomination.
Romney, who spent more than $36-million of his own money on the campaign but failed to make a breakthrough on Super Tuesday, said he was standing aside for the sake of the party.
Speaking at the annual meeting of thousands of conservative Republican activists in Washington, he said he wanted to give McCain a chance to begin campaigning early for the election.
“If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror,” he said. “In this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.
“This is not an easy decision for me. I hate to lose ... but I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America I feel I must now stand aside, for our party and for our country.”
Referring to the Democratic party’s contenders, Romney said: “Barack and Hillary have made their intentions clear regarding Iraq and the war on terror. They would retreat and declare defeat. The consequence of that would be devastating. It would mean attacks on America launched from safe havens that make Afghanistan under the Taliban look like child’s play.”
He acknowledged disagreements with McCain, but said: “I agree with him on doing whatever it takes to be successful in Iraq, on finding and executing Osama bin Laden and on eliminating al-Qaeda and terror.”
His departure from the race leaves McCain facing only Mike Huckabee, the Baptist pastor and former governor of Arkansas, who has done well in the south, but has limited appeal elsewhere in the country. The chances are that Huckabee will eventually join McCain as his running mate.
Also left in the race is Ron Paul, but he has made a minimal impact on the Republican nomination process.
Romney struggled in the race partly because of his lack of charisma, the loss of part of his natural support on the right to Huckabee, and suspicion among Christian evangelicals about his Mormonism. He also fought a mainly negative campaign.
Romney made his announcement at the Conservative Political Action Conference, made up mainly of hardcore Republicans. The deep divisions in the party were exposed at the conference. When, almost three hours later, McCain was introduced, about a fifth of those present loudly booed him.
In contrast, Romney, a social and fiscal conservative, received five standing ovations. McCain’s relatively moderate views on immigration and opposition to some of President George Bush’s tax cuts have aroused hostility among Republican activists.
David O’Connell (22) a student and Romney supporter from Texas, said McCain “has demonstrated time and time again a willingness to abandon his conservative principles to become popular with the far left in the Senate, such as Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton”.
Romney’s pull-out came despite McCain failing to win a majority of conservative voters in almost every Super Tuesday state, other than Connecticut.
On Tuesday night Romney, who has an estimated $230-million fortune, had said he would fight on, though he was far behind McCain in the battle for delegates.
Romney may have been the wealthiest candidate in the presidential race, but the campaign has proved a severe drain on his personal finances.
The Washington Post, which reported that the Romney camp had spent $1,16-million for each delegate it secured, calculated that it would have cost Romney about $1,3-billion to win the Republican party nomination. That means that he must have spent about $341-million on the 294 delegates he won over—a sizeable chunk of his personal fortune, which is thought to stretch to as much as $500-million.
By the end of last year he had already spent more than $37-million of his own money on the campaign.
Republican campaign workers apparently devised a scale to measure the amount of money a candidate spends on each delegate won: the Gramm-o-meter. The system take its name from Phil Gramm, a former Texas senator who had 10 delegates to show for $25m spent in 1996. - Guardian Newspapers Limited 2008
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