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Romney's Out ... And In?

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) announced late Wednesday that he would not seek a second term as governor, a move sure to further stoke speculation about his interest in a 2008 presidential candidacy.


The Mitt Romney '08 speculation will only get more intense now that he's declined to run for reelection in Massachusetts. (Getty Images)

"Serving as governor is one of the greatest honors of my life," Romney said at a 6 p.m. ET press conference at the Massachusetts statehouse. "A year from now, it will be time for me to pass that privilege to someone else."

Romney said he would accomplish all he had set out to do by the end of his four year term, rattling off a list of achievements including balancing the state's budget, lowering unemployment and streamlining government. He made no mention of his 2008 aspirations in the speech. Julie Teer, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Romney "is keeping his options open and not closing any doors." 

We'll leave it to the state papers to provide the full analysis of what Romney's decision means for the 2006 governor's race (The Fix's quick read: Democrats' prospects just increased markedly). Instead, let's take a look at the impact Romney's decision will have on the Republican presidential field.

The most obvious and important effect is that time Romney would have had to dedicate to a reelection fight can now be devoted to building grassroots networks in Iowa and New Hampshire and raising the millions of dollars he will need to make a serious run at the 2008 Republican nomination.

Like Romney, Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist, New York Gov. George Pataki and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are leaving office at the end of 2006, so they are free to concentrate solely on 2008.  That may prompt Republicans like Virginia Sen. George Allen, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, and former New York City Rudy Giuliani to speed up their own activities to ensure they stay competitive.

Romney has made no secret of his interest in a national bid, traveling regularly to early primary and caucus states -- a schedule that has drawn criticism from Democrats back home in Massachusetts.

Romney will use his recently-assumed chairmanship as the Republican Governors Association as a national platform in the coming 11 months; after that he can turn into a full-time presidential candidate.

For more on Romney, see this post from The Fix's archives.  Go to the next page to read full text of Romney's remarks from today.

Text of Gov. Romney's Dec. 14 remarks:

Fall officially ends in a few days. The snow is piling up. The time has come to speak to you about my plans.

I have a great view of the Boston Common from my office. I can see kids skating on frog pond and commuters going to and from work. In warm months, I see parents and children enjoying a picnic on the lawn. Now, the lights of Christmas and the holidays are spread out before the entire city. In so many ways, this place reminds me of our founding as a "shining city on a hill." It teems with people of all kinds, free to pursue happiness of all kinds. For the past three years, it is service on behalf of these people that has given me purpose. Serving as Governor is one of the greatest honors of my life.

A year from now, it will be time for me to pass that privilege to someone else. I will not be a candidate for re-election.

I have not come to this decision lightly. It comes after many conversations with Ann and with my family and friends. I will miss the enormous satisfaction that comes with making a difference in the lives of our fellow citizens. I will also miss working with my team. They are people of extraordinary talent and ability. They put aside their careers to serve you and our Commonwealth.

My decision comes down to this: In this four year term, we can accomplish what I set out to do. In fact, we've already accomplished a great deal.

When I ran for Governor, the state was in tough shape. Our finances were a mess, unemployment was high and we were losing jobs every month. In some ways, government was hobbled with politics and patronage. I said I'd do my best to clean up the mess.

Today the budget is balanced. Unemployment is down. Employers have added 35,000 jobs since the bottom of the recession. The legislature and my administration have cooperated to reform government and solve major issues. We've streamlined and consolidated government. We've rescued our school building program so that we can construct hundreds of new schools. We've instituted smart growth policies and environmental programs that will preserve what we love about living in New England. Tuition-free Adams scholarships are now granted to thousands of our kids, every year. Taxes have been lowered, most recently for our seniors, and benefits for veterans and National Guardsmen have been improved. Congratulations are due to our legislature and its leaders.

There is more to be done in the coming year. In healthcare, we are on the verge of something truly historic: insuring all our citizens. This is something Republicans and Democrats can agree on. Senate President Travaglini and Speaker DiMasi are good and decent men who are willing to put aside politics to fulfill the promise of a just and compassionate society. After more than two years of diligent work, we are close to getting the job done. I am confident we will.

There is other work also before the legislature that will be resolved, one way or the other, this coming year. I have proposed powerful incentives to add new jobs to our economy. I am fighting for fundamental reform for auto insurance. I want our welfare program to require work. And, like you, I want your income tax rate to decline to 5 percent.

And then, there's education. We've made big strides, defending MCAS and adding science as a graduation requirement, standing up for charter schools, implementing English immersion and adding merit scholarships.

Have you heard about our kids' results? Every year, 4th and 8th graders across America are tested in math and English. Our 4th graders scored 1st among all 50 states in English. They also scored 1st in math. And our 8th graders scored 1st in English. And they scored 1st in math. In all four categories, Massachusetts kids are the top in the nation.

But our nation is falling behind. Our children face global competition unlike anything we ever faced. They will need the best education we can give them. I will continue to fight for education reform, giving better teachers better pay, empowering principals, hiring more math and science teachers, and giving our kids laptop computers.

Let me conclude by saying this to the people of Massachusetts -- I want to thank you for giving me this job. I love it. In January of 2007, when I walk out my office for the last time, I am surely going to miss it. I have loved the whirlwind of accomplishment of the last three years and I will give my all to keep up the pace in my final year.

Thank you.

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 14, 2005; 6:16 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008 , Governors  
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Comments

Romney has just as much of a chance as anybody else if he makes it into the general election. The concern about his religion offending the South probably wouldn't show: would a Southern Baptist rather elect a Mormon or Hillary? My money is on the Mormon. Just because they are opposed to his religion doesn't mean that they are going to sacrifice their political views for it which is what Joe Blow Voter would have to do if he were to vote for the Democrat.

Posted by: Phil | February 19, 2006 12:03 PM | Report abuse

As yet another mass resident, let me confirm the red speck in a sea of blue analogy (you can confirm it for yourself by reading the other blogs on this site). How Mitt ever found a way to get elected here is amazing. Unlike other reports, the democratic party pulled out all the stops in opposing him eg. nearly every prominent democrat in the region made public appearances shortly before the vote.

Mitt has been not only a red speck in a sea of blue, he has been one of a few honest politicians in a system full of nepotism and corruption. He hasn't reversed that system, but he did put a good sized dent into it.

His Mormon background is an interesting topic. It will be interesting to see how the republican party will react. After years of being labeled as bigots (erroneously in my experience), they are at risk of being viewed as such if Mitt's religion is made an issue in the primaries. This could also sour the Mormon vote (strongly republican) in the general election (states like AZ,NV,ID,UT), perhaps giving an edge to the democrats in a closely contested national race. It is definitely going to be interesting.

However, if Mitt makes it through the primaries, he will make a very strong candidate for the general election. While not as conservative as some, his political views are very mainstream (outside of Mass). His ethical fortitude and integrity will contrast nicely against Hillary.

Posted by: Mass Conservative | December 22, 2005 11:32 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: DownWithPC | December 15, 2005 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Exactly..DOA!!! In as much as I can't imagine any of my Republican neighbors voting for him, I'd say he must be the only guy on the face of the planet that believes what he is saying. The sad part will be watching him get crushed in the GOP primaries.

Posted by: Kim | December 15, 2005 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Chad R. -- check out http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=116695

from Monday's Metrowest Daily News re Kerry Healy's courting of the locals.

Posted by: MassDem | December 14, 2005 11:13 PM | Report abuse

Another Massachusetts resident here!

I echo my fellow voters, Romney didn't stand a chance for re-election. He has shown in the past year what contempt he really has for his home state.

Comments like "I'm a red speck in a sea of blue", and some even more derogatory comments have been made by our esteemed Governor. The people of the Commonwealth finally saw him for the sham that he is. To borrow a line from the former Democratic candidate for Governor, Shannon O'Brien, "I don't know what scares me more; his teeth, or his hair."

Oh, and if Kerry-Healey has been meeting with local leaders throughout the state, she hasn't done a thing about it. Nearly every community in the Commonwealth is clamoring for more local aid funds. Schools are crumbling, fire and police forces reduced by double-digit percentages, roads and traffic improvements (save the Big Dig) have been close to none, and still not a proposal from her office.

Together, Romney and Kerry-Healey have presided over a horrible economy and have not worked to change that. We still have close to a half a million uninsured in the state, a large number of people unemployed, and large companies fleeing.

Even if Romney makes it to be the Republican Nominee for President, the citizens of the Commonwealth would never cast thier electoral votes for him... some of us still think he's from Utah.

Posted by: Chad R. | December 14, 2005 10:40 PM | Report abuse

He looks like a Hyundai car salesman. Very slick and icky.

His nomination is DOA.

Posted by: SorryMitt | December 14, 2005 10:31 PM | Report abuse

does anybody else think he wants to be hollywood, i mean i cant stand those elites out there, but that hair and his obsurd smile will make me puke more than Bush's complete lack of the english rhetoric

Posted by: bp | December 14, 2005 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Just listened to Romney's press conference -- he's stepping down because he's accomplished everything he set out to do and doesn't have anything left on his checklist that can't be wrapped up by the end of his term. He took credit for education reforms which started long before he took office and creating 30K or so new jobs--without mentioning the substantial number of jobs which left the state on his watch.

Posted by: MassDem | December 14, 2005 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Romney's candidacy for any national office is DOA, and not only for the reasons that people have noted already above but also for the basic fact that the country is not ready to elect a Mormon president. It sounds bad to state outright, but it is true. I was born in Salt Lake City and half my family is Mormon, but I also know that the religion is still looked upon as a "cult" by very large numbers of people in the country.

The only non-WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) to my knowledge that has been elected president is Catholic, and they haven't exactly been winning in droves either.

Posted by: J. Crozier | December 14, 2005 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Romney has potential to make some noise in the '08 primaries, considering his dad was governor of Michigan, and obviously Massachusetts is next door to New Hampshire (but McCain of course has the advantage in both places). And Utah isn't the only state in the West with a notable Mormon population.

Posted by: PBS | December 14, 2005 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Yet another Mass resident here -- of COURSE Romney wasn't going to run for re-election! Nobody I can think of was fooled by the Hamlet-on-the-Charles act for a second.

I also don't think that you can compare him to Mark Warner -- Romney's accomplishments over the past five years have been minimal at best because he has refused to put his political money where is mouth is. For example, during Romney's 2002 campaign, he said, among othe things, that he was going to be a saleman for Massachusetts to bring more business to the state, but not only has made no effort to follow through, he is trashing our state all over the country in an effort to make himself look good. He has made attacks on the legislature (which is easily able to override his veto), but has generally failed to talk to the legislative leadership to negotiate so that at least part of his vision becomes politically possible.

Even though I am an activist in local Democratic politics, I don't count out Lt. Gov. Kerry Healy's chances for a minute. She (or more precisely, her husband) has millions of dollars available in personal funds. She has quietly been going around the state for the last several years talking to local officials about local issues and making friends along the way. She also has been making it clear that she's far more of a social centrist than Romney -- making herself more electable. The state Republican party, knowing that it doesn't have a prayer of winning a majority of either body of the legislature, will pour all its efforts into retaining the govenor's office. Last, in running a campaign for governor since 1990, the state Democratic party has shown an amazing ability to form a circular firing squad and kill the nominee's chances. I have heard our state party's chairman state that the party has learned from his mistakes -- but I'll believe it when I see it.

Posted by: MassDem | December 14, 2005 6:04 PM | Report abuse

As another Mass Resident I agree that we saw this coming from miles away. The only reason Romney won the first time was his challenger was weak.
Also don't look for the Republicans to pick up Mass next year. The Stem Cell issue alone has sunk their ship.

I will give Romney credit though he will raise a TON of money due to his Mormon connections and his big buisness ties. If the Primaries are all about money then he is a definite player. Other then that McCain will wipe the floor with him.

Posted by: Andy R | December 14, 2005 5:19 PM | Report abuse

As a resident of Massachusetts, this ridiculous posturing is classic Romney, or as a close friend calls him, "Mittney." It is certainly no surprise to anyone in this commonwealth that he is not seeking re-election.

Regarding Julie Teer's cookie-cutter comment:
"that a potential presidential bid did not factor into Romney's decision not to run for a second term. "2008 is so far down the road," she said. "The governor is keeping his options open and not closing any doors."

Give me a break already. He has been eyeing the Oval Office for years. Any position that can possibly provide more Photo-ops (of which he is the undisputed king, by the way) is definitely on his "to do" list.

I certainly will not be sad to see him leave the Governorship. He actually wants to add discrimination into our state constitution. That is completely beyond my comprehension. Is this what we really want in a leader?

Posted by: Ken H. | December 14, 2005 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Romney has no chance. Everybody knows he was polling for a major defeat against pretty much anything with a pulse if he had run for another term as governor.

If by some bizarre series of flukes, Romney were to actually win the '08 nomination then Mark Warner would beat him like a rented mule. A conservative Southern governor with an 80% approval rating in his home state versus a Masssachusetts who has posed as a liberal with less than a 50% rating back home? I think that we can all -- Democrat and Republican alike -- agree that Romney's defeat would essentially be a foregone conclusion.

Posted by: Jackson Landers | December 14, 2005 4:38 PM | Report abuse

If Mass stays in the R column then Romney could become the Republicans Mark Warner, only closer to '08 action.

Posted by: Steve D | December 14, 2005 4:11 PM | Report abuse

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