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Jim, we hardly knew ye

July 14, 2007 | 12:35 pm

Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, who touted himself as the reliable conservative in the 10-man race for the Republican nomination for president, has just dropped out of the contest. The move was first reported Saturday afternoon by Mike Allen of Politico.com.

The combative 57-year-old Gilmore, a lawyer who also served as state attorney general and briefly as chairman of the Republican National Committee, never got much traction in the GOP campaign. The campaign with its unusually early start has been tough on longtime frontrunners like Sen. John McCain, let alone lesser-known lights like Gilmore, who had raised little money, only $381,000 compared to Mitt Romney's $35 million. Practically speaking, Gilmore's departure will have little effect on the race.

In a statement posted minutes ago Gilmore said he would campaign for Republican General Assembly candidates in Virginia this fall. The tax-cutting former governor did not rule out a future run of his own for one of Virginia's U.S. Senate seats in 2008 if incumbent John Warner retires or for governor again in 2009.

But Gilmore said running for president now requires years of preparation and many millions of dollars, especially given the heavily front-loaded primary election schedule in presidential years. Gilmore only began his own campaign work in January. He did not endorse any of the remaining candidates.

Gilmore had been off the campaign trail in recent days anyway for treatment of a partially detached retina. Last month the Republican broke with President Bush's war policy. He said he did not favor abandoning Iraq, but he did propose "a limited deliberate drawdown" of American forces and a redeployment elsewhere in the region.

The Republican field will now stand at nine, at least until after the Aug. 11 straw poll in Ames, Iowa or until the frequently-delayed entry announcement by former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, who now is considering waiting for September. Presumably, he means this September.

--Andrew Malcolm

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