Gary Hart, declaring, "I got a fair hearing and the people have decided," quit the 1988 presidential campaign for good Friday, three months after rejoining a race from which he had been driven by revelations about his personal life.
Hart, the one-time Democratic front-runner who has been drubbed in every contest since re-entering the campaign, advised the five surviving candidates to debate more and attack each other less.
Asked if he would ever seek the White House again, he said lightly, "Not this year; twice in one year is enough."
Hart, smiling, relaxed and accompanied by his wife, Lee, and son, John, showed none of the angry defiance that marked his first withdrawal from the campaign last May 8 after news reports about his relationship with Miami model Donna Rice.
The 51-year-old, two-term senator from Colorado recalled that he had rejoined the campaign in December with the words: "Let the people decide."
"I got a fair hearing and the people have decided and now I should not go forward," he said Friday.
A few supporters dabbed at tears and hugged each other, but Hart's withdrawal had long been expected. He had not won a single convention delegate, and he won no more than 5% of the vote in any of the Super Tuesday contests last week.
Hart bantered with the press during a question-and-answer session after his prepared statement. But he also spoke seriously of his future.
"I want to continue to provide what help I can to all the candidates in the race, particularly in the area of ideas and issues," he said to supporters and reporters who jammed a south Denver restaurant to hear his remarks.
Hart noted that Democrats have won only a single presidential election since 1964, and he told the party's remaining candidates: "Those who cling to the past mask their lack of direction with caution and platitudes. We can only be prepared to govern if we challenge the future with bold new ideas."
A defiant tone entered his voice when he said to those, in and out of politics, who might be asked to compromise: "I hope you'll say, as I do, 'Hell, no.' Preserve your integrity, study time and patience and never give up."
Hart endorsed no candidates, but had words of praise for all of the Democrats he ran against this year.
'We'll Have to See'
"I clearly want somebody who steps out a little more boldly and perhaps more comprehensively in defense and foreign policy and economic restructuring, but we'll have to see how that goes," he said.
He called for candidates to offer detailed budget proposals and to learn the details of military reform--two points that he made repeatedly during his run for the nomination.
Hart had frequently criticized reporters during his second try for the nomination, but he said Friday, "I want to thank members of the media who were fair and balanced."
He was indefinite about his plans, saying he wanted to help the Democratic Party and its candidates, and to continue "speaking, writing and participating."
Lack of Money, Staff
The Hart campaign in its last stages was handicapped by lack of money and staff, and one of the lessons he said he learned from his effort was "how difficult it is to run for President under those circumstances."
But he said he felt good about his decision to re-enter the race in December. "I don't feel like I lost," he said.
Hart said that during the seven months after his first withdrawal he learned that he was not happy on the sidelines.
"Last fall, it was sort of like being like (Denver Broncos quarterback) John Elway and being told you couldn't throw a football, or like being a race horse and not being able to run in a race."
A Biting Remark
Hart had one biting remark with reporters as he concluded his exchange. Asked what he would do in private life to earn a living, he replied: "None of your business."