Paul Tsongas said Thursday he will not re-enter the Democratic presidential race despite his strong showing in the New York primary, a decision that boosts front-runner Bill Clinton's chances for swiftly rallying the party around his candidacy.
"I will not re-enter the race," Tsongas told a news conference in Boston, saying that to do so would be to play the role of spoiler. "I reject that role."The former Massachusetts senator said his name will remain on future primary ballots, and he will keep his delegates to the party convention in July. He also declined to endorse Clinton.
But he called on his supporters to cease campaign efforts on his behalf, and Clinton - as front-runner - was the primary beneficiary of his decision.
Tsongas said he spoke with Clinton by telephone on Wednesday night. "He congratulated me. I congratulated him," Tsongas said, adding that Clinton did not ask for support and he did not offer it.
Tsongas' decision was certain to cheer the Clinton camp, busy trying to create a bandwagon for the Arkansas governor following his four-state primary sweep this week in New York, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Kansas.
Clinton has 1,267 nominating delegates, to 539 for Tsongas and 264 for Jerry Brown. It takes 2,145 to secure the nomination.
Party leaders, pointing to Clinton's enormous delegate lead, have said in recent days the nominating fight is all but settled, despite Brown's persistent challenge, and a re-entry by Tsongas would serve to prolong the fight.
It's not often that a candidate gets to make two withdrawal statements in a single campaign, and Tsongas, known for his wry wit, made the most of it.
He ducked the first question thrown at him: whether he would serve on a ticket with Clinton. He had said previously that he was not interested in becoming the party's vice presidential candidate.
Tsongas held up his 86-page economic manifesto, which he often waved during campaign debates, and profusely thanked the voters who had supported him after his first withdrawal last month.
"Hear me well, Democrats and Republicans. The old ways of taking this country into economic ruin and social chaos are over. The people of America are ready for a new resolve," he said. Tsongas, 50, campaigned as an apostle of a pro-business economic policy, coupled with a liberal social agenda.
Asked whether he intends to run for the White House in 1996, Tsongas replied, "I will answer that question in mid-November."
Party chairman Ronald Brown told AP Radio on Wednesday that Tsongas' message had taken hold in other candidates.
"In fact, much of that message is the Clinton message," Brown said.