MILWAUKEE – Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson is dropping out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, a campaign official said Sunday.
His campaign released a statement saying the Republican is leaving the campaign trail several hours after WITI-TV in Milwaukee reported that Thompson told one of its reporters he was withdrawing.
The campaign statement said Thompson intends to take some time off before returning to the private sector and his nonprofit work.
It said the 65-year-old says he’s comforted by the fact that he thinks he made a difference for people during his campaign.
He finished sixth among 11 candidates in this weekend’s GOP straw poll in Iowa. He had said before the Iowa event that he would drop out of the race unless he finished first or second.
The statement didn’t say whether he would endorse another candidate.
A veteran of four successful campaigns for governor of Wisconsin, Thompson had a good track record of winning elections.
He quit during his fourth term as governor to serve as President Bush’s secretary of Health and Human Services from 2001 to the end of 2004.
He was first elected in 1966 at age 24 to the Wisconsin State Assembly, not long after he graduated from the University of Wisconsin. Twenty years later, he won his first term as governor.
As governor, he earned a national reputation for policies that moved many Wisconsin families from welfare to work, gave minority families more options on where they could send children to school by giving religious and private schools up to $5,000 per student, and expanded health care to include thousands of the working poor who had not previously qualified for government programs. He pushed for changes in welfare laws before President Clinton and Congress took up the issue on the national level.
Critics, however, charged the primary aim of Thompson’s welfare reforms was merely to get people off Wisconsin’s rolls and not necessarily to lift families out of poverty
Thompson’s time heading the Department of Health and Human Services was marked by anthrax attacks, a flu vaccine shortage and passage of the Medicare prescription law.