How much does this change things?
Probably, not much.
Nine months ago, I left the office of Governor in Virginia. I was immensely proud of what we had accomplished. We faced historic challenges and got real results.
Upon leaving office, I committed all my time and energy to Forward Together because we need a new direction in America.
Everywhere I’ve traveled, I found hope that we could turn this country around. That Americans are looking for leaders who at this moment of enormous challenge for our country can actually bring us together and get things done.
I’ve heard that regardless of the depth of dismay at the direction President Bush has taken our country, rank and file Democrats are energized, and want ours to be a party of hope, not of anger.
I am especially proud of the work we’ve done in supporting those kinds of candidates throughout America.
We got a lot done.
Forward Together has contributed more money this year to Democratic candidates and party organizations than any other federal leadership PAC. Our effort raised over $9 million.
I headlined 86 events in 25 states to help raise or directly donate $7.3 million to Democrats this cycle.
And our work is not done—especially at home in Virginia, where I continue to work to help Jim Webb win.
But this has also been another kind of journey—one that would lead to a decision as to whether I would seek the Democratic nomination for President.
Late last year, I said to Lisa and my girls, “Let’s go down this path and make a decision around Election Day.”
But there were hiring decisions and people who’ve put their lives on hold waiting to join this effort.
So about a month ago, I told my family and people who know me best that I would make a final decision after Columbus Day weekend, which I was spending with my family. After 67 trips to 28 states and five foreign countries, I have made that decision.
I have decided not to run for President.
This past weekend, my family and I went to Connecticut to celebrate my Dad’s 81st birthday, and then we took my oldest daughter Madison to start looking at colleges.
I know these moments are never going to come again. This weekend made clear what I’d been thinking about for many weeks—that while politically this appears to be the right time for me to take the plunge—at this point, I want to have a real life.
And while the chance may never come again, I shouldn’t move forward unless I’m willing to put everything else in my life on the back burner.
This has been a difficult decision, but for me, it’s the right decision.
It’s not a decision I have easily reached. I made it after a lot of discussion with my family and a few close friends, and ultimately a lot of reflection, prayer, and soul-searching.
Let me also tell you what were not the reasons for my decision.
This is not a choice that was made based on whether I would win or lose. I can say with complete conviction that—15 months out from the first nomination contests—I feel we would have had as good a shot to be successful as any potential candidate in the field.
As for my family, Lisa and our three girls have always had a healthy amount of skepticism, but would have been willing to buckle down and support the effort. I love them all and appreciate their faith in me.
So what’s next?
First, I know that many friends, staff and supporters who have been so generous with time, ideas, energy, and financial support will be disappointed.
My decision does not in any way diminish my desire to be active in getting our country fixed. It doesn’t mean that I won’t run for public office again.
I want to serve, whether in elective office or in some other way. I’m still excited about the possibilities for the future.
In the short-term, I am going to do everything I can do make sure Democrats win in 2006. It’s an exciting year to be a Democrat. I leave shortly to go to Iowa to support folks running for state and congressional office. Hope they are still excited to see me.
I want to thank the thousands of Americans who have donated to Forward Together, hosted me in their homes, shared their ideas, and given me encouragement.
I also want to thank all of the staff and key advisors at Forward Together who have created a great organization. If we had chosen to go forward, I know they had the skills, talent, and dedication to take us all the way.
And finally, as I have traveled the country, I have been amazed at what pent-up positive energy for change exists.
In my speeches, I always acknowledge that what disappoints me most about this administration in Washington is that with all the challenges we face . . . and the tragedies we have experienced, from 9-11 to Katrina . . . that the President has never rallied the American people to come together, to step up, to ask Americans to be part of the solution.
I think a number of our party’s potential candidates understand that. I think, in fact, we have a strong field. A field of good people. I think they’re all hearing what I heard: that Americans are ready to do their part to get our country fixed. I wish them all well.
And I want to say thanks to all who’ve been part of this effort.