TOPEKA, Kansas (Reuters) - Republican Sam Brownback of Kansas, a two-term U.S. senator whose presidential campaign failed to draw money or widespread support from an intended base of religious conservatives, dropped out of the 2008 White House race on Friday.
“Today I’m ending my candidacy. My yellow brick road just came short of the White House this time,” said Brownback, who was flanked by his family and a small group of supporters as he announced his decision from the state capitol in Topeka.
Brownback blamed a shortage of campaign funds and media pessimism about his chances for his inability to compete in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
“We’ve really been held (back) early on by the media saying ‘we don’t think he can do it,’” Brownback said.
He had just $94,000 in campaign funds at the end of September, having spent more money than he raised in the last three months as his support dwindled.
A practicing Roman Catholic, Brownback billed himself as a conservative Christian defender of family values.
When he announced his candidacy in January he was seen by some political analysts as a potential darling of the religious right, the type of unshakable social conservative who could do well in key early voting states like Iowa.
But Brownback’s support in polls had sunk into the single-digits. Fellow conservative Mike Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, could gain a small boost from Brownback’s departure, but Huckabee has also struggled to attract religious conservatives unhappy with the top Republican contenders. Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson is also angling to corner conservatives’ votes.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads the Republican field in national polls, and Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, leads in Iowa state polls. Arizona Sen. John McCain has also garnered significant support in polls, slightly ahead of the lower tier of candidates that up to now had included Brownback.
A new CBS News poll found that about 40 percent of white evangelicals were less excited than usual about voting in the 2008 presidential election, a sign of dissatisfaction with the field of candidates.
Christian activists exerted strong influence in Republican nominating primaries and were courted heavily by President George W. Bush in his 2004 reelection.
Brownback had campaigned on goals that including renewing “the family and the culture” in America by protecting marriage from homosexual unions and opposing abortion as well as working toward energy independence, an alternative flat tax, and an improved health care system.
Brownback has also been a leader in the U.S. Congress in drawing attention to problems in Africa, which he has called a proving ground for the Republican agenda of compassionate conservatism.
Despite focusing much of his effort in Iowa, Brownback finished behind Romney and Huckabee in the Iowa straw poll in August. Brownback had said he needed to finish at least second.
Even in his home state of Kansas, Brownback fell behind in the funding race to Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, the New York senator, pulling in just $54,581 from fellow Kansans in the last quarter.