Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential nominee, gestures before speaking during the Republican National Committee's winter meeting aboard the USS Midway Museum in San Deigo, Calif. on Jan. 16, 2015. Gregory Bull—AP

Mitt Romney Abandons 2016 Campaign For President

Updated: Jan 30, 2015 11:45 AM ET

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told donors and supporters Friday that he will not run for president, just three weeks after upending the GOP field by suggesting he was seriously considering a third bid for the White House.

"After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee," Romney told donors, in remarks that were first published by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt and confirmed by a Romney aide.

Late Thursday, Romney invited donors and supporters to a conference call to announce his plans. “Please join me for an update call tomorrow at 11:00 AM EST / 8:00 AM PST,” Romney’s political team wrote in an email, signed “All the best, Mitt.”

Romney told those on the call that he is confident he could once again win the Republican nomination. But he also acknowledged, “it would have been difficult test and a hard fight.” He added hat he believes that another Republican would best be able to challenge likely Democratic nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

See the Last Days of Mitt Romney's 2012 Campaign

Nov. 7, 2012. Ann Romney and Mitt Romney leave the stage of the Boston Convention Center after his concession speech.
Nov. 7, 2012. Ann Romney and Mitt Romney leave the stage of the Boston Convention Center after his concession speech.Christopher Morris—VII for TIME
Nov. 7, 2012. Ann Romney and Mitt Romney leave the stage of the Boston Convention Center after his concession speech.
Election Night, Boston Convention CenterNovember 6, 2012Gov. Romney and his supporters.
Nov. 6, 2012. Supporters of Mitt Romney look on as they learn the results of the election at the Boston Convention Center.
Nov. 5, 2012. Mitt and Ann Romney deplane at a campaign rally in Columbus, Ohio.
Nov. 5, 2012. A bus at a campaign stop in Fairfax, Va.
Nov. 5, 2012. One day before the election, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigns in Sanford, Fla.
Nov. 4, 2012. Bystanders at a Romney campaign stop in Cleveland, Ohio.
Nov. 4, 2012. A news correspondent at a Romney campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio.
Nov. 4, 2012. Audio-video preparation at a venue in Des Moines, Iowa.
Nov. 3, 2012. Secret Service at a Romney campaign in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Nov. 3, 2012. Romney campaigning in Portsmouth, N.H.
Nov. 4, 2012. At a Romney campaign stop in Cleveland, Ohio.
Nov. 2, 2012. Faces in the crowd at a Romney campaign stop in West Allis, Wis.
Nov. 2, 2012. Faces in the crowd at a stop in West Chester, Ohio.
Nov. 2, 2012. Romney's sons (from left) Tagg, Matt, Josh and Craig watch their father in West Chester, Ohio.
Oct. 31, 2012. Security at a rally in Tampa.
Oct. 31, 2012. An onlooker at a Romney campaign stop in Tampa.
Oct. 31, 2012. Waiting for the candidate to arrive at an event in Tampa, attended by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Senator Rubio and Connie Mack.
Oct. 30, 2012. Romney addressing the crowd in Kettering, Ohio.
Oct. 30, 2012. Supplies donated to the Red Cross at a campaign stop in Kettering, Ohio.
Oct. 30, 2012. A journalist covering the campaign stop in Kettering, Ohio.
Oct. 30, 2012. Pausing to use an iPad at a Romney event in Kettering, Ohio.
Oct. 30, 2012. Carl Cameron, a Fox News correspondent, at a stop in Kettering, Ohio.
Oct. 28, 2012. Romney and Ryan address the crowd in Celina, Ohio.
Oct. 28, 2012. In Findley, Ohio, a wide range of ages came out to hear Romney and Ryan speak.
Oct. 28, 2012. A Romney security detail at a Celina, Ohio rally.
Oct. 28, 2012. Faces in the crowd in Marion, Ohio.
Oct. 28, 2012. Faces in the crowd in Marion, Ohio.
Oct. 26, 2012. Before a Romney-Ryan rally in Canton, Ohio.
Oct. 28, 2012. Romney speaking in Findley, Ohio.
Oct. 28, 2012. Faces in the crowd in Findley, Ohio.
Oct. 28, 2012. Romney speaking in Marion, Ohio, nine days before the Presidential election.
Oct. 27, 2012. Romney supporters in Land O' Lakes, Fla. stretched to high-five Romney as he left the rally.
Oct. 27, 2012. Faces in the crowd during the rally in Land O’ Lakes, Fla.
Oct. 26, 2012. Faces in the crowd at the Romney-Ryan rally in Canton, Ohio.
Oct. 26, 2012. Faces in the crowd at the Romney-Ryan rally in Canton, Ohio.
Nov. 7, 2012. Ann Romney and Mitt Romney leave the stage of the Boston Convention Center after his concession speech.
Christopher Morris—VII for TIME
1 of 39

“I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee,” he said. “In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.”

“You can’t imagine how hard it is for Ann and me to step aside, especially knowing of your support and the support of so many people across the country,” he said. “But we believe it is for the best of the Party and the nation.”

Romney, who met privately in Utah last week with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is not expected to endorse a candidate in the already crowded GOP field.

On the call Romney said it was “unlikely” he would reconsider his decision to step aside, and freed his donors and supporters to work for other candidates. "Please feel free to sign up on a campaign for a person who you believe may become our best nominee,” Romney said. Many Romney aides and donors had already sought out work with other contenders. Just Thursday, David Kochel, Romney’s Iowa strategist, signed on with Jeb Bush’s campaign.

He delivered the prepared statement in an even tone on a four-minute call with supporters and donors, ending his remarks with the words "Bye bye." An aide said Romney wrote the remarks, in which he thanked supporters for their patriotism, himself.

In a statement following the call, Bush praised Romney as a “patriot” and a leader of the GOP. "Though I’m sure today’s decision was not easy, I know that Mitt Romney will never stop advocating for renewing America’s promise through upward mobility, encouraging free enterprise and strengthening our national defense,” he said. "Mitt is a patriot and I join many in hoping his days of serving our nation and our party are not over. I look forward to working with him to ensure all Americans have a chance to rise up."

Growing Up Romney: Mitt's Early World

With 'Mitt,' 10, youngest of Romney children, [George Romney] inspects house at Bloomfield Hills which he and his wife designed.
Caption from LIFE. With 'Mitt,' 10, youngest of Romney children, [George Romney] inspects house at Bloomfield Hills which he and his wife designed.Grey Villet—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
With 'Mitt,' 10, youngest of Romney children, [George Romney] inspects house at Bloomfield Hills which he and his wife designed.
George Romney with his son, Mitt, 1958.
George Romney with his son, Mitt, playing with electric trains, 1958.
George Romney with his son, Mitt, on a frosty golf course, 1958.
Mitt Romney and George Romney, 1958
George Romney 1958
George Romney and family, 1958
On desk George Romney keeps prehistoric animals to remind him of favorite 'big-car' analogy. 'Some dinosaurs had a 70-foot wheelbase and huge fuel consumption. The principal factor in their extinction was the fact that they got so big they were unable to live.'
George and Lenore Romney, 1962
After Sunday services the Romneys crowd onto a sofa in living room. Son Mitt and married daughters Jane and Lynn are at the rear. From left, grandchildren are Gregory (held by Lenore), Douglas, Susan, Brett and Jody. Another son, Scott, is in England with a mission group.
George Romney and grandchildren, 1962
George Romney and grandchildren, 1962
George Romney, 1962
George Romney officiates during a Mormon service, Michigan, 1962.
At end of a long day on the new state constitution -- and after a quick change to pajamas -- Romney falls asleep on fold-back seat of his car as the chauffeur begins the trip back to Bloomfield Hills.
Michigan governor George Romney on the golf course, 1963.
George and Lenore Romney (right), November 1963.
Lenore Romney, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 1963.
George Romney (center) and family, November 1963. Mitt Romney is seated, on the left.
George Romney (left) and family, November 1963.
George Romney at home in Bloomfield Hills, November 1963.
Mitt Romney places a birthday cake before his mother, Lenore, in November 1963.
George Romney (seated on couch at right) with family, November 1963.
Caption from LIFE. With 'Mitt,' 10, youngest of Romney children, [George Romney] inspects house at Bloomfield Hills whic
... VIEW MORE

Grey Villet—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
1 of 23
All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.