Bauer drops out of race, declines to back a candidate

Conservative Republican pledges to be factor in debate on abortion


WASHINGTON -- Gary L. Bauer withdrew from the presidential race yesterday, vowing to continue preaching his message of conservative religious values and declining -- for now -- to endorse anyone else for the Republican nomination.

Bauer used an oft-quoted phrase from President Theodore Roosevelt ("The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood") to emphasize that he had no regrets about his long-shot candidacy or its end.

He pledged to be "a major factor in the debate in the country" on issues such as abortion, which he opposes without compromise.

Bauer said he would not endorse any candidate for the nomination until he saw how their positions evolved. "I just will say that those that are still in the race seem very interested in my endorsement," he said.

Spokesmen for the two leading contenders, Gov. George W. Bush of Texas and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, could not be reached for comment on Bauer's statements.

Asked why his message had not caught on with voters, Bauer said that it had, if not in votes then in its effect on the other candidates. "I heard my words even when my lips weren't moving," he said, asserting that his message had led others in the Republican race to try to sound conservative.

Bauer congratulated McCain for his victory in New Hampshire, lauding him as "a good and decent man." A moment later, he was generous as well toward Bush and the two other candidates, Alan L. Keyes and Steve Forbes: "They are all good and decent people."

Abortion has been a dicey issue for McCain and Bush. Both have said they basically oppose it. Bush has said he is comfortable with the basic Republican platform, which calls for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, while McCain has said he would like to see the platform modified to include exceptions in cases of rape, incest or to save the woman's life.

Bauer has said that if he were president, he would appoint only strict anti-abortion jurists to the Supreme Court.

"On this issue, I will not be moved," he said yesterday. "On this issue, I will not go away."

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