By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Former Virginia governor James S. Gilmore III ended his long-shot Republican presidential campaign yesterday, saying he was unable to raise enough money to communicate his conservative vision to Americans. He held out the possibility, however, that he might soon run for public office again in Virginia.
Gilmore, the son of a butcher who had improbably risen to become a local prosecutor, a state attorney general and a governor of Virginia, dropped out of the crowded GOP primary field a day before reporting that he had raised $211,000 between April and June.
Since January, he has raised $381,000, while his rivals have collected tens of millions of dollars.
"You have to build a large organization of people who will raise money for you. That takes years to develop," Gilmore said yesterday. "While the other candidates are raising tens of millions, we were raising hundreds of thousands. We would have to change that paradigm to stay in this race."
That reality seemed clear to observers when Gilmore announced his candidacy in January. A one-term governor who had been out of office since 2001, Gilmore was a virtual unknown outside of Virginia and lacked a national organization.
But he could, and did, boast about his résumé. As governor, he led a tax-cutting crusade and a party-building effort that won him the admiration of conservatives. In addition, Gilmore served a year as chairman of the Republican National Committee after being selected by President Bush. He also led a homeland security panel that urged tougher protections before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Gilmore's real strength, however, has always been his absolute certainty about his own ideas and beliefs. That gave him the courage to present himself in his presidential campaign as an alternative to politicians with far more experience and far more national recognition.
"I think I have the record and credentials to actually be the president," Gilmore said yesterday. "We think there is a need for a consistent conservative in the race. We think the Republican Party ought to nominate one."
Gilmore recently underwent surgery to repair a detached retina, leaving him unable to travel for the past two weeks as he recovered. But he said yesterday that his convalescence had less to do with his decision than the practical realities of running for president in the modern era.
He said he will consider running for the U.S. Senate in 2008 if Sen. John W. Warner (R) decides to retire. He added that he is open to the idea of running for governor again. State law bans consecutive terms for governors but allows comebacks.
He said people have been asking him to think about both campaigns.
"Those are options we will certainly consider for public service," Gilmore said.
In the meantime, he said, he will start a political action committee in the hope of influencing November's state legislative elections. "I would like to see the Republican majority retained, if possible," he said.
As a presidential candidate, Gilmore hardly made a blip on the national political radar. He never drew more than a percentage point or two of support in national polls, and most people still do not know him, despite his participation in three debates.
But he had his moments.
During the second debate, it was Gilmore, more than any candidate, who lashed out at the three Republican front-runners for not being conservative enough. He called them "Rudy McRomney," a clever put-down aimed at former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Later, Gilmore tried to break from the pack by calling on Bush in an open letter to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq.
"The least bad option, if you will, is a limited deliberate drawdown of our military men and women and a redeployment of the forces," he wrote, adding that the troops should go to bases in Turkey, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, from which they could launch operations against terrorists.
The letter received only a little attention, but Gilmore cited it as a proud moment.
"I think that I've offered some good ideas," he said. "It's been a good experience, and I'm glad that I ran."