By Ben Clark
Last Thursday, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney stunned an enthusiastic crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference when he announced that he was suspending his race for the Presidency. The news came in light of several remarkable victories for his two chief rivals, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Senator John McCain of Arizona, just two days earlier. Romney cited his support for the Iraq War, claiming that his presence in the race would serve only as a distraction and might threaten to tear the Republican base apart when needed most.
To many at the conference, his announcement came with an overall sense of disappointment and dismay. Many prominent conservatives (such as Ann Coulter) have announced that they will not support McCain in the general election. Throughout the remainder of the conference, audience members booed and hissed at the very mention of the Arizona Senator, considered by many to have betrayed conservatives on issues such as immigration and campaign finance reform.
The irony of the situation lies not only in the fact that a formerly pro-choice, anti-NRA, pro-gay rights, tax-and-spend Massachusetts Governor had been labeled the race’s true conservative. It also lies in the fact that the three remaining candidates- Huckabee, McCain, and U.S. Representative from Texas Ron Paul- all of whom’s campaigns were at one time or another considered dead. What had six months ago been a race between Giuliani, Romney, and Fred Thompson now includes none of them.
It is unclear which, if any, of his remaining rivals Romney will endorse. Huckabee may stand to win some of the socially conservative voters who had previously leaned toward Romney, but at this point in the campaign, a Huckabee surge might be coming a little too late. With McCain poised to be the Republican nominee, the Democrats have time to focus their attacks, and Republicans have more time to decide whether or not they can support McCain.