Gephardt told a news conference in St. Louis, his voice breaking at times, ”I gave this campaign everything I had in me.”
“Today my pursuit of the presidency has reached its end. I’m withdrawing as a candidate and returning to private life after a long time in the warm light of public service.”
The congressman said he looked forward to spending more time with his family.
“The silver lining in all of this is that I’ll finally get to see them at every opportunity, rather than when opportunities could be found. Jane, Matt, Chrissy and Kate are my life and to them I’ll always be grateful,” he said.
Gephardt has served 14 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. For 13 years, he also served as his party’s leader in the House.
Gephardt, who turns 63 this month, said he would serve out his final year in Congress and continue to work on behalf of issues important to him including universal health care coverage, pension reform, energy issues and a trade policy that “doesn’t sacrifice American jobs.”
As news emerged that Gephardt would drop out of the presidential race, those who had campaigned against him praised the Missourian’s tenacity and career.
“Congressman Gephardt is a great American, and his presence in this race and this debate will be missed,” former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said in a statement. “He has dedicated a great deal of his life helping America, and has consistently stood for working people and the best principles of the Democratic Party.”
“For every American who works the late shift or the early shift, for every American who builds our cars or fixes our roads, for every American who takes care of the sick and educates our young people, Dick Gephardt has been your champion,” North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said. “He’s been your champion in the House, throughout this campaign, and he always will be.”
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry claimed victory in Monday’s Iowa caucuses with 38 percent of the vote. Edwards finished a close second with 32 percent, followed by Dean with 18 percent and Gephardt with 11 percent. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio received 1 percent.
The remaining seven Democratic candidates assembled in New Hampshire Tuesday to start their final campaign blitzes ahead of the state’s Jan. 27 first-in-the-nation presidential primary.