Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will not run for president in 2008, Republican officials said Wednesday, as the field of White House contenders continued to shrink more than a year before the first convention delegates are chosen.
In a written statement released today, Frist says, "In the Bible, God tells us for everything there is a season, and for me, for now, this season of being an elected official has come to a close. I do not intend to run for president in 2008."
Frist's decision caps a 12-year stint in electoral politics in which he rose from an underdog in his 1994 Senate campaign to the position of majority leader a mere eight years later.
In his written statment, Frist says, "I will take a sabbatical from public life. At this point a return to private life will allow me to return to my professional roots as a healer and to refocus my creative energies on innovative solutions to seemingly insurmountable challenges Americans face."
Frist goes on to say, "Twelve years ago, I pledged to the people of Tennessee that I would serve two terms in the Senate - to serve as a true citizen legislator - and then return home. I said I'd come to the Senate with 20 years experience in healing, spend 12 years serving in Washington, then go right back to Tennessee to live where I grew up. I've never deviated from that commitment. And I will do just that."
In the short term, Frist says he will resume "regular medical mission trips as a doctor around the world to serve those in poverty, in famine, and in civil war" and "continue to be a strong voice to fix what is broken in our health care system and to address the issues of clean water and public health globally. We will stay actively engaged in policy issues affecting the lives of Americans."
The decision by the Tennessee senator leaves Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani as the most nationally prominent contenders for the Republican nomination.
Other potential GOP contenders include Sens. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Charles Hagel of Nebraska, Gov. George Pataki of New York and Rep. Duncan Hunter of California.
Frist becomes the most high profile campaign dropout. Earlier this fall, former Democratic Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia also announced he will not run for the presidency in 2008. Warner, like Frist, had begun putting in place a campaign organization to raise money and line up supporters in early caucus and primary states, as well as nationally.
For more than a year, Frist has been under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding allegations of insider trading in connection with the sale of shares in HCA Inc., a hospital chain and health company his father and brother founded. Frist has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, although he has not gained the quick resolution of the issue that he had hoped for.
Frist was a physician with no experience in politics when he challenged Democratic Sen. Jim Sasser. He was swept into office in that year's Republican landslide.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.