I disagree with Senator McCain on a number of issues, as you know. But 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. 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.
This is not an easy decision for me. I hate to lose. My family, my friends and our supporters... many of you right here in this room... have given a great deal to get me where I have a shot at becoming President. If this were only about me, I would go on. 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.
It looks like McCain now has a lock, barring a Huckabee resurgence.
Frankly, I don't think McCain is the strongest candidate to face HillaryTM or the youthful and energized Obama, but the deal may be done.
McCain's biggest weakness?
No, it's not his maverick attacks on conservative principles in pursuit of favorable press.
His biggest weakness is his biggest strength: his stance in the War On Terror.
And unfortunately, the country is not with McCain or the GOP in recognizing that it is the transcendental struggle of our time.
As Rove often pointed out, the best way to attack your opponent is to turn his strength against him (as he did with Kerry's war record in 2004).
His leadership on the Surge is great - but it only really counted back in 2007. By the end of 2008, the Surge will either be a monumental success or a monumental failure.
Either way, it will be difficult for him to run on a strategy which is no longer necessary.
Just as the Brits ousted
If things continue to go well, the electorate's response will be "Thanks.... Great Job. Now we can worry about (the economy, health care, etc, etc)".
McCain has no strong case to make regarding these issues and will have trouble debating them with conservative, free-market principles because he rarely relies on them - he more often relies on what's best for John "The Maverick" McCain.
If Iraq goes up in flames, the electorate's response will be "You're to blame... it's time for a change."
These are just my personal thoughts, 9 months out from the election. Things certainly can change. But, it's difficult to see how a septuagenarian can compete against a inspiring campaign from Obama (even if Obama's trying to inspire us to become serfs to the federal government).
*** UPDATE ***
The Wall Street Journal has more on Mitt leaving the race here. They also report that Huckabee is fighting on:
The Huckabee campaign said the former Arkansas governor would push on.
"We're still in the race and we're still competing for delegates, and today demonstrates how long and windy to the White House this is," said Chip Saltsman, Mr. Huckabee's campaign manager.
ARC: St Wendeler