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Gramm Quits The Race

[Phil Gramm]

WASHINGTON (Feb. 14) -- Like many presidential candidates before him, Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) looked better ending his campaign than he did during much of it, especially the final two weeks.

In a Capitol Hill room packed with supporters, Gramm this afternoon bowed out, joining California Gov. Pete Wilson and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) to become the third GOP candidate to end a bid for the White House. "I am today ending my campaign for president of the United States," Gramm told supporters. "When the voters speak, I listen, especially when the voters are saying someone else's name." (160K AIFF or WAV sound)

"The bottom line is," explained Gramm, "it just wasn't going to happen....It would be unfair of me to stay in this race, when it was clear I wasn't going to win." (192K AIFF or WAV sound)

So ended the candidacy of one of the campaign's most conservative voices. Running on social themes and a Reaganesque economic message, Gramm was the self-styled conservative alternative to front-runner Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan). "I was conservative before conservative was cool," he was fond of saying. But despite raising an impressive $20-plus million by the end of 1995, Gramm proved unable to project more than a dour personality, which earned him a sobriquet as "the root canal candidate."


A social and economic conservative who never found a way to energize voters, Gramm left the race with both his strong convictions and a good sense of humor intact. "Frankly," he said, "I'm tired of coming home late and having my dog bark at me because he doesn't know who I am."

His supporters were shocked and saddened, but Gramm appeared upbeat and realistic. He did not endorse any GOP rival, but he had tough words for conservative commentator Pat Buchanan and his economic populism, particularly his protectionist stance, calling it "a recessive gene in the American character." (224 AIFF or WAV sound) Buchanan is trying to pitch himself as the conservative alternative to Gramm.


Gramm's own hopes to establish himself as the leading conservative were dashed by Buchanan in Louisiana's caucuses nine days ago. Even greater damage was done Monday when, despite a strong campaign organization, Gramm finished a dismal fifth in Iowa's caucuses. "When you run fifth in Iowa, an important state, you would have to be brain dead not to take a look at where you are and what you're doing," Gramm conceded after the vote.

His greatest mistake of the campaign, Gramm said, was not focusing on what he termed the trade-off between unlimited government and unlimited freedom. Running for president was a "great experience, " Gramm told cheering supporters. "I enjoyed every day of this campaign. Some days I enjoyed it better."

Supporter Marilyn Bradlee is uncertain about where her vote will go. "I don't believe I'll go for Dole," she said. "A vote for Dole would be a vote for Clinton." The race for Gramm's supporters will shape the candidates' pitches during the next six days.

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