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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Gephardt Drops Out of Presidential Race

Aired January 20, 2004 - 14:05   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: This is Dick Gephardt in St. Louis.
REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D), MISSOURI: Thank you.

It's a beautiful day here in St. Louis. I'd like to make a quick statement and then I'll take questions.

As I said last evening, I'd like to congratulate again the other candidates for their strong campaigns in Iowa. The enormous voter turnout shows the great strength and determination of the Democratic Party to reclaim the White House. And I accept the results with the knowledge that I gave this campaign everything that 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.

I'd like to again thank the citizens of the 3rd Congressional District for their support and the privilege and honor of serving them in the Congress for going on 28 years.

GEPHARDT: I'd also like to thank them for standing by me during this final campaign. My life's work has been fighting for the honor and dignity of their life's work and I couldn't ask for anything better from life.

I'm going to return to Congress and dedicate my last remaining year to representing them with the best of my ability. Every day of my working life, I've sought to bring positive change for the hardworking men and women of this country and my efforts will not cease in these final months.

I will continue to work for universal health care, pension reform, more teachers in the classroom, energy independence from Persian Gulf oil, and a trade policy that doesn't sacrifice American jobs in the pursuit of trade with countries that have no respect for the environment or the living conditions of their own people. American workers can't compete with that and they shouldn't have to.

I'm proud of the campaign we waged. It was fought on the principles of fairness for our workers, security for our seniors and opportunity for our children. My career in public office is coming to an end but the fight is never over.

To all of you who have dedicated so many months and years to this effort, I hope and pray that you will stay in the arena of public life. Never stop fighting for what you believe in and never stop believing that we can make a difference.

GEPHARDT: The towering strength of America is its endless reservoir of citizens who never tire of the sacrifice to make it better. I love this country and I love my 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. God bless you all.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

QUESTION: Now that this phase is over, can you offer any timeline as far as when and if you might endorse one of the remaining candidates or who you might consider?

GEPHARDT: I haven't had a chance to do anything than what I'm doing and I've had a little trouble with that.

(LAUGHTER)

So we'll figure out the rest at a later point.

QUESTION: Congressman, what about the labor support or the lack of it yesterday?

GEPHARDT: I am so proud of the help and support I got from America's working people and families and labor unions. As you all know, my support for working people and labor unions is in my heart and in my background and in my bones.

And I cannot tell you -- I will get choked up when I talk about what people did to help this campaign. They even took their shirts off yesterday in...

(LAUGHTER)

... three-degree weather. So this was an enormous effort that these folks gave to this campaign. And it was a labor of love on both sides.

I so believe in America's working people and what they mean to this country. And not that they do everything right or that they're right on every issue, but the hardworking American citizens deserve support in what they try to do.

I come, as you know, from a family that struggled, like many of them do today. And I will always be on their side and I will always be fighting their fight.

QUESTION: Congressman, given your absence from this race, and Missouri's primary coming up two weeks from today, your name will still be on the ballot. I don't wish to re-ask the question, but this state seems so pivotal now -- so much more so in the absence of your race -- because of your prominence in this state, polling suggested that you were going to win this in a walk. It was a discounted race until this moment.

QUESTION: How is it that somebody can come in here -- in your opinion -- your fellow Democrats, campaign effectively in two weeks? They're going to be turning to you, won't they, asking you for help, advice and endorsement? You're going to cast a pretty large shadow over that race, won't you?

GEPHARDT: I doubt it.

I can't figure it out at this point. I've got enough in front of me. I'll figure it out maybe at some point. But I haven't spent a moment on it. I got enough to deal with right now.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

GEPHARDT: I haven't thought about any of that.

I am so humbled by all of the help and all the people who have been at my side, not only in this campaign, but through my public life. And I simply am trying now to thank people as profusely as I can for all that they've done to help me. That's all I can do right now.

QUESTION: It's rather stunning to me that you say you're going to go back in private life. Does it mean no matter what?

And I know you said you haven't had time to consider everything, obviously, everything you went through the last month or so and especially last night. (OFF-MIKE) suggested that you might keep in mind for a Cabinet position or some other type of job that is still private yet dealing with public issues in Washington should the Democrats win (OFF-MIKE)

GEPHARDT: I really have not had a moment to think about anything other than what I'm looking at right now.

And I really -- it is very important for me to convey to all of my friends and supporters my enormous appreciation for all that they've done to be at my side and to help in this effort. And I want to be able to do that and do it effectively, because I'm humbled by what they've done, and that's what I'm going to try to do in the next days.

O'BRIEN: Richard Gephardt, Democrat of Missouri, St. Louis, Missouri, specifically talking to supporters, family members there as he announces the end of his presidential campaign, the end of his political career.

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