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To say I’m surprised is an understatement given the fierceness and speed Romney moved from considering a run to seriously considering a run, to not running in 2016 at all. This makes me feel better since I had previously pledged to chop off my hand that there was no way he’d run again in 2016. According to a statement Romney delivered Friday morning to aides and close supporters, he will step aside in 2016.

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A small excerpt from the text of Romney’s remarks he will deliver on the phone call at 11am et to supporters, courtesy of Hugh Hewitt:

Romney: “Let me begin by letting you know who else is on this call, besides Ann and me. There are a large number of people who signed on to be leaders of our 2016 finance effort. In addition, state political leadership from several of the early primary states are on the line. And here in New York City, and on the phone, are people who have been helping me think through how to build a new team, as well as supporters from the past who have all been kind enough to volunteer their time during this deliberation stage. Welcome, and thank you. Your loyalty and friendship, and your desire to see the country with new, competent and conservative leadership warms my heart.

After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee.” [Emphasis added]

More from the Associated Press:

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will not run for president in 2016.

Three weeks after unexpectedly saying he was considering a third campaign for the White House, the former Massachusetts governor told members of his staff during a Friday conference call that he is out of race.

Romney jumped back into the presidential discussion on Jan. 10, when he told a small group of former donors in New York that he was eyeing another White House run.

But in the days since, as Romney tried to rally support for another campaign, he discovered that several of his past supporters and major fundraisers had defected to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Said one this week in an interview with The Associated Press, “I have turned the page.”

So that’s it, the show’s over folks. Romney’s presidential aspirations will have to stay pent-up in his list of things he wishes he’d accomplished in life.

The candidate benefiting most from this decision is obviously Jeb Bush. This would leave Chris Christie as the remaining certified establishment candidate to fight Jeb for the moderate wing of the party. I can tell you I’m pretty sure people like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and others were quietly hoping Romney would force a fight between the moderates so as to allow a more conservative candidate to emerge.

Perhaps the meeting between Jeb and Mitt last week had something to do with this announcement. The question is, what position will Mitt hold in a theoretical Jeb Bush administration?

The landscape has changed yet again in a few short days.

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