WASHINGTON — Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), languishing with scant resources and little visible support for his moderate message, prepared Tuesday to end his Republican presidential campaign.
Specter's departure from the race would leave a GOP field of eight candidates dominated by conservatives. He planned a formal announcement of his decision today in Philadelphia.
"I'm not going to go into debt," Specter said Tuesday during a visit to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He said the final word would be "basically a dollars-and-cents decision."
Specter, who failed to rise above 2% in the polls, had sought to pull his party back from what he considers a far-right tilt influenced by intolerant extremists.
Without directly confirming his decision, Specter indicated he could reopen his campaign "if lightning were to strike" and moderates demanded his candidacy.
Specter, known for his tenacity, reluctantly decided to call it quits in the face of dismal fund raising, said several campaign officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
His departure is not expected to significantly change the presidential race, where Specter was always an also-ran in polls.
Specter, 65, is the second candidate to drop out, following California Gov. Pete Wilson in September. Wilson, too, was an awkward fit with conservative GOP primary voters.
Conservative commentator Patrick J. Buchanan, one of the remaining GOP candidates, said that with the departures of Wilson and Specter, and Colin L. Powell's decision not to run, "the clear message is that the pro-choice position on abortion is nowhere near the heart and soul of the Republican Party."
But National Abortion Rights Action League President Kate Michelman said Specter's departure will cost the GOP votes because it means "the remaining candidates will continue kowtowing to anti-choice, radical-right activists who dominate the nominating process." Candidate Malcolm S. (Steve) Forbes Jr. also supports abortion rights but has played down the issue, and when asked about it, highlights conditions he would place on abortion.
Technically, Specter planned to put his campaign into suspended status, which allows him to collect about $1.2 million in federal matching funds in January.