Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas is expected to abandon his bid for the GOP presidential nomination today after struggling financially and falling flat in a key test among Iowa Republicans.
Brownback, who spent part of Thursday calling supporters to share his decision, was to make the announcement in Topeka, Kan., where he began his longshot bid in January.
The two-term senator was a favorite among social conservatives who appreciated Brownback's firm stance against abortion and same-sex marriage. But even admirers gave him little chance against better-known rivals, such as former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, and candidates with far more money, such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
He also suffered in comparison to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who shares many of Brownback's positions and proved to be more engaging in a series of candidate debates. "Huckabee took a big bite out of his support," said Melvin A. Kahn, who teaches political science at Wichita State University. "If Huckabee wasn't running, I think Brownback would've been a lot better off."
Brownback's biggest problem, however, was a lack of money.
In campaign finance reports released earlier this week, Brownback reported a mere $94,000 cash on hand, far less than any of his opponents. Since the campaign began, he raised just more than $4 million, compared with $62 million for Romney and $47 million for Giuliani.
In a gamble, Brownback spent heavily to compete in a Republican Iowa straw poll in August, hoping a strong showing would vault him into serious contention in the state that will vote first in 2008. But after a disappointing third-place finish behind Romney and Huckabee, his campaign never recovered. Earlier this month, a Des Moines Register poll showed Brownback with just 2% support from likely caucus-goers; Romney led the survey with 29%.
In exiting the race, Brownback will become the third GOP hopeful to quit before any official ballots are cast. Former Govs. Jim Gilmore of Virginia and Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin also abandoned their candidacies after struggling for money and attention.
Brownback, 50, who has said he will not run for a third term in the Senate, has been mentioned as a candidate for Kansas governor in 2010 when his term expires. But he could face a tough fight in a state where Republicans are deeply divided along conservative-moderate lines.
"I don't think running for president helped him inside the state very much," said University of Kansas political scientist Burdett Loomis. "He could probably get the nomination, but it wouldn't be a slam dunk."
The Republican presidential candidates will debate Sunday at the Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando, Fla. Fox News will broadcast the 90-minute forum beginning at 5 p.m.