Romney Drops Out at CPAC

Radio talker Laura Ingraham must not have gotten the memo that Mitt Romney was about to drop his presidential bid. “Of all the people introducing the three remaining candidates for president, I get to introduce the conservative,” she said, as she ripped John McCain’s claim to be a right-wing “foot soldier”: “I think the question is, ‘What have you been doing for conservatism lately?’ … An obsession with bipartisan compromise doesn’t make us free.”

But just as Igraham’s efforts failed to carry Romney through Super Tuesday, her remarks today weren’t enough to keep him in the race.

Romney, after giving a shout out to his new friends in talk radio, worked up the crowd with red meat: “Unless America changes course, we could become the France of the 21st century!” According to Romney, “The threat to our culture comes from within”—from the social safety net, number one (welfare “created a culture of poverty”), but also from “the attack on faith and religion.” For him, that means pornography, out-of-wedlock births, and “liberal judges.” If Democrats win in November, he said, “the opponents of American culture would push the throttle.”

There were already rumors passing through the attendees that this would be the end of the line for Romney, but his culture-war rhetoric had them enthralled, and he teased them: “You’re with me all the way to the convention. Fight on—just like Ronald Reagan in 1976!”

But instead, the folks at CPAC would have to make do with Gerald Ford. Concluding that staying in the race “would forestall the launch of a national campaign,” Romney said, “I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.” His supporters booed, and cried out “No!”

Opponents of McCain filter out, dejected—“Tell dad to throw out my absentee ballot,” one young women said on a cell phone, “I just can’t do it!” But those who didn’t get the idea on Tuesday have the rest of the weekend to get used to it.