Richardson drops out of presidential race

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said on Thursday he was dropping his bid for the Democratic U.S. presidential nomination after a poor showing in the early contests.

Slideshow ( 3 images )

“It is with great pride, understanding and acceptance that I am ending my campaign for president of the United States,” he told supporters in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“It’s been an exhilarating and humbling year. An experience I will treasure and I will never forget.”

Richardson, 60, who would have been the first Hispanic U.S. president if elected, won only 5 percent of the Democratic vote in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, behind Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

Richardson grabbed only 2 percent of the vote in last week’s Iowa caucuses, which kicked off the state-by-state process of selecting Democratic and Republican candidates for the presidential election in November to succeed President George W. Bush.

A skilled negotiator and diplomat, Richardson has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate or secretary of state in a Democratic administration.

Richardson, whose mother was Mexican, grew up in Mexico City but attended high school and college in the United States.

He was elected to a second term as New Mexico governor in 2006.

Richardson served from 1982-1997 in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he was one of the leading Democrats focused on foreign policy issues.

Under President Bill Clinton, Richardson served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and energy secretary.

Reporting by Deborah Charles, editing by David Alexander