Remarks Suspending Campaign
Parker House
Boston,  Massachusetts

March 19, 1992

[Democracy in Action Transcript |  C-SPAN Video]

[Chants: "We want Paul"]

TSONGAS: This is so typical of the campaign. We have love on both sides and guerrilla warfare among the press.

It had been my intention to make only one announcement today but because of a phone call that came in an hour ago, I have two to make. One is that I will suspend my candidacy for President of the United States and because of the second phone call, I am pleased to announce that I've agreed to accept the presidency of the Speedo bathing suit company.

And I'm serious.

You finished?

A year ago, you and I began our journey of purpose. We undertook this journey out of love of country.

America faces economic peril and social disharmony. That is not what America is all about. America is a great nation, and we are a great people, and we must be called to that greatness.

This journey had two missions. The first was to redefine the Democratic Party to combine economic growth with our traditional social compassion.

America needs such a Democratic Party.

I believe the force of our message and our sheer survival has caused people all over this country to see a new path.

It is a steeper and harder path, but it is more compelling and more noble. It is the path of America's future.

At the end of that path, lies a prosperous and humane America. More importantly, it is the path of our generational responsibility, our young deserve our willingness to make hard choices. Their fate lies in our resolve. To turn away from that sacred responsibility is to violate the legacy of our ancestors. That message, that sacredness, that resolve was my mission. And I feel deeply fulfilled. The obligation of my survival has been met.

The second mission was to secure the nomination, take the party and take the fight to George Bush.

I believe that I could have brought in independents and moderate and disaffected Republicans to combine with traditional Democrats and become President of the United States.

But the hard fact is that the nomination process requires resources. And last evening, it was clear that we did not have the resources necessary to fight the media war in New York. We simply did not have the resources. I would have been defined by others and have been unable to defend myself.

Worse my message, my message would have been wounded, and all that we worked for, for this past year would have been put at risk.

The message must endure.

At times we were under a great pressure to change our views to accommodate various interests. I chose not to. My principles could not have been compromised without destroying that message. Those decisions cost us dearly. And the resources simply were not there to make up the difference. And thus today's announcement to suspend the campaign.

The alternative was clear. The alternative was to play the role of spoiler. That is not what I'm about. That is not worthy. I did not survive my ideals in order to be the agent of the re-election of George Bush.

My task is to pay homage to principles. In the largest sense, it is our collective—you and me—our collective commitment to a set of values, that is what will endure. We stood for something; we stood for something.

And that is what I want you to take away with you. What you worked for, all the hours, all the agonies, all the sacrifice—that was what this was about.

Your dedication moves me deeply. You live in my soul. We are part of a larger force, and we have served our country.

My heart is hopeful for America. I congratulate Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown. I look forward to the convention, and I look forward to a Democratic victory in November.

It's been a hell of a ride; it's been a hell of a ride.

And what I'd like to do at this point is to introduce two people to sort of represent those who served us so well. And first, my campaign manager going back to '74 and '78 and my best friend, Dennis Kanin.

What he could have done if he just had the money.

And secondly, when I would think during this—when it was clear we had a real chance here, and I would think about well what happens if I did not win —I had feelings on both sides of that in terms of family and so forth. But the one regret that will always sort of pain me is that this country would never have a first lady named Niki.

NIKI TSONGAS: Thank you. Those of you who know me well, followed me during the campaign, know that the cat only catches my tongue when I'm with Paul. Otherwise I have much to say, but I'd have to say this has probably been the most wonderful experience of my life.

You're remarkable people, you all— I think if anything, what this campaign is said about all of you is how much you love your country. And I think that's a remarkable testament to the kind of people that this country produces. And I just want to thank you all very much for making it possible. It would not have been possible one day without all of you, and we will never forget it. Thank you very much.

PAUL TSONGAS: Who would have thought a year ago we began, that we'd stand up here today. Niki would be more articulate than I am and get a better round of applause. I am resentful.

I'd also like to [inaud.] campaign across the country did a heck of a job. And Niki's sisters, my sister Vicki, my brother-in-law Jim, Ashley, Katina and Molly; it was a family affair, and we're proud of what we did.

My final comment, and I can say this now that we are suspending that you can trust my word.

I'd like to say a word to the press. Gasp.

And that is that as happened in my prior life, I've gotten to know members of the press, and I have a great respect for them. The fact is that there are a lot of cynics in the group, but it's a cynicism born of idealism. And as bad as they may be ,the fact is this country would be devastated without them.

The people I've met in the press, I've enjoyed. Some of them hopefully have become friends. I just want to express my enormous respect. Didn't like everything they wrote, and moaned and groaned about some of it, but in the last analysis where we are blessed. I don't say that casually, and there's no self interest at this point in making that comment, but absent the digilence of the press, there would be no America. and that is the wonder what our founding fathers put together.

Now if the founding fathers thought about this group, maybe they would have had a different mechanism, but anyway, we are— So as a citizen, I feel comforted by the fact that you all are out there and protecting this country as well. So I never thought I'd say that, but that's how I feel.

Okay. Why don't we let you inquire.

QUESTION: ...using the word suspending your campaign?

TSONGAS: The difference, the reason I'm using the word suspension is that we have delegates who wish to go the convention, and by suspending the campaign, they're intact, and they can go. And that we've gotten a number of calls urging us, pleading with us to do that, and so that's why we're doing that.

QUESTION: ...the problem was not money, you had plenty of money to go on.  What changed in the last 24 hours?

TSONGAS: The problem is not money coming in; the money was coming in. I mean the amount of money coming in—the numbers I think you're familiar with 300,000 in February—300,000 in January.

I will say this is totally aside; I can wonder freely.

But I'd like to apologize for three remarks I made during the campaign.

One, Molly is in the fourth grade, not the fifth grade.

The second is I have three children, not four.

And the other thing I said the other day was I got cancer at the age of 38 not 42. So let me, gotten all those things straight.

This campaign was lost in 1991 because of the lack of resources. It was almost rescued in 1992 by the message. We came into 1992 without any money and in debt. And so the 300,000 that came in in January, the 1.4 million that came in February, and the 1.4 [million] we've raised already in March, I mean, that was wonderful.

But the problem is we were starved. And if money is the mother's milk of politics, our mothers didn't show up until late January. And so what happened was we had no reserves. As we then moved into the states with all the media buys, what we were bringing in was fine, but there was no reserves to play.

And what we found out in Texas, Florida, Michigan and Illinois was the fact that if someone goes on television and  defines you, and you have no capacity to respond people's impression of you is not what you are but what you were defined by your opponent.

And it was obvious that to go into New York, defenseless in terms of financial resources, being unable to get up on the air in the Buffalos, Schenectadys, etcetera, would have meant that we could not compete. And the danger was, and the great agony was that the message if I had gone down in that way, that the message would have been so damaged that all that we have endured for would have been hurt.

So I have no complaints about what was coming in, in the last month or so. What affected us was not having the capacity to organize to do things back last year, and to come into 1992 basically in a state of poverty.

QUESTION: ...have you spoken to Gov. Clinton yet...?

TSONGAS: I have spoken to all of the other five candidates.

Bob Kerrey was in Disney World.  I told him I would be there at two or three o'clock. You can decide who's goofy. I will not be grumpy though.

We had a conversation; we agreed to get together. There was no discussion of of any anything beyond that. And I must say it's interesting to talk to people you've done battle with. And those who have stepped out, there's a sense of brotherhood, and I think I've made some good friends along the way.

QUESTION: ...are you worried that it was your message or that you didn't have charisma or to what extent you think it was either?

TSONGAS: There's no accounting for our success absent the message.

I'm not the most telegenic and charismatic character that ever came down the road but people believed me, and it was the message that people responded to. The fact is when I get into this race, you all wrote me off. I was not even a first-tier candidate, despite the message, so we had to overcome not only the inertia, but the fact is we were not treated seriously by those who have the capacity to affect opinions in this country. So how do we overcome that without money? We overcome it, we overcame it because the message has power, that there's a vision that people can be attracted to. And part of those of you who followed us saw in Ann Arbor and in Northwestern and  the parade in Chicago, is that people do respond to beliefs. And that was what gave us great hope.

And the fact is that when you look at those four, we won the small states when it was even. But you go into the large states where you cannot reach that many people and the impression of you is defined by the TV buys. And you are defenseless in that war. It has its inevitable consequences, and that was the price we paid for not having the resources backed up in 19—at the end of 1991 and January of 1992.

QUESTION: Do you accept the fact now that Gov. Clinton will be the Democratic nominee?

TSONGAS: It think he's certainly in the driver's seat by any definition of that term. I congratulate him. I did today. I said Bill, been in this business a long time, you're the only person ever defeated me, and my hat's off to you.

Let me respond to a feminine voice.

QUESTION: ...Did you tell him you'll be supporting him now?

TSONGAS: I'm not gonna support anybody. I was very grateful when the others decided to step down and not endorse, and I think I owe the two candidates a similar courtesy.

I'm going to answer feminine voices since I can't see you all until we're even.

I don't mean conflicting feminine voices.

QUESTION: from the National Democratic Party leaders to step aside?

TSONGAS: Did I get any pressure from the National Democratic leaders to step aside now? I sure did. A year ago.

[Chants: "Paul, Paull, Paul"]

A more direct to your question. Certainly not in the last nine or 10 months. They've been actually rather astonished at what we've done, and I think they must go home tonight and wonder how did he do it? The fact is that the Democratic message, unless changed, will lead to defeat in November. And what we have done is to demonstrate: Okay, folks, you've got good IQs—is the path. Take the path and you can win. Stay on the old path because it's more comfortable, and you lose again. And George Bush will be reelected.

It's not difficult: two paths. We have pointed out the way, despite them, and now we call upon them for their own country's sake make some changes; make some redefinition. Understand that when people are not working, they're hurting.

And that.  I'm back to my rhetoric again.

One vote.

Let me rephrase that.

One navigational system that is inclusive, not exclusive.

You can see why that never worked.

One vote—everybody's in nobody's out. And that sense of economic growth and reaching out to the business community, taking all your resources and building the manufacturing base. That's not rhetoric, that is humanity, that's fairness. And for the Democratic Party to embrace things like the middle class tax cut, because that's what the polling data suggested is why they're in trouble. That's why we did well, because we stood for something. We didn't start off this campaign—

That's why after the game began, I expanded my inclusion of capital punishment to include pollsters and media consultants and I reaffirm that today.

QUESTION: ...Are you ruling out the number two spot on the Democratic ticket and what sort of role do you envision for yourself in the remainder of the '92 race?

TSONGAS: I'll respond to any male voice I hear.

I promised the group  last night when, after we met that I would make no statements on my future, that I would keep my views to myself, let things settle down, and I will honor that commitment. But I will be a player because I am now the message that people have responded to. We did not have the resources; we have the message, and it's my job to make sure a Democrat wins in November, and I'm committed to that.

TSONGAS: I hear another feminine voice; you'll have to wait.

QUESTION: Senator last weekend you suggested that under no circumstances when you accept the vice presidential slot. Now you seem to be backing away from that. Can you be more definitive? Is it yes or no?

TSONGAS: Here I'm trying to be feminist, right. And this thing keeps on coming back.

QUESTION: Answer the question.

TSONGAS: I made a commitment last night, and the people I made the commitment to I live with. I don't live with you.

Let me say if that was unnecessarily a come back, I semi-apologize.

Okay, I've had enough of— Let's go back to my side of the genetic aisle.

QUESTION: ...your candidacy being revived?

TSONGAS: As I understand, and correct me if I'm wrong, we will be on all the ballots that remain. But I don't see that that would come back. I mean the fact is, you've got a front runner, you've got a second candidate. And if I thought that the resources were there to take this into the major media states I would have done it. But those resources simply were not there last year.

QUESTION: What do you say to the people who plan to vote for you in those primaries?

TSONGAS: Why not? I have not thought about it, but it is an intriguing notion. I thank you for bringing it up.

QUESTION: ...last few days of you being the only reasonable alternative to Bill Clinton. Now that alternative is Jerry Brown. What do you feel that does the Democratic dynamic race? If Bill Clinton were to stumble somewhere along the way, if there were any new revelations, the alternative is Jerry Brown. Do you think that's an acceptable alternative?

TSONGAS: Is there anything else besides a male or female alternative here?

Give Jerry Brown credit. I spoke with him today. If I had money problems, he's had money problems. But he has an 800 number, so he has a certain advantage. And you have to give credit to someone like that and I do. And we'll see how his message evolves now that I'm not in this race. I agreed to sit down with him as well, and that will take place. And certainly in his case, I would think California must be a very enticing possibility.

QUESTION: regret now...?

TSONGAS: This is not a day for regrets. I've been in a lot of battles, and I've fought good friends and afterwards we've been friends again.

But you know I feel good today. I felt lousy last night, to tell you the truth. And it was very emotional to tell all these people about my decision. But I must say I've spoken to so many people around the country today. And what we've done will last, and I don't think you can say that but everybody who's run. So in that sense [inaud.].

And I will admit to a great sense of relief.

The fact is that half of the young people, young men in my campaign have fallen in love with my wife. I find that a great threat. And now we're gonna get rid of them.

QUESTION: Do you think Bill Clinton could defeat George Bush if the election were held tomorrow or do you think Bill Clinton needs to radically reshape his message?

TSONGAS: I would rather talk about Paul Tsongas today if you don't mind. I mean clearly, I think that ... I was always criticized or analyzed in the sense of not being as strong as I should have been among traditional Democratic constituencies. But the fact is where I did the best was not only a certain part of the Democratic Party, but independents and Republicans. That's how you win.

And to the extent that you ignore that constituency, and say, well, you're not part of my group, you are dooming yourself to defeat in November. So it is my hope that there'll be some movement in terms of positions that will say to those people, yes, you can trust us with the economy. It's not more of the same Democratic approach. And that's how you win.

George Bush is vulnerable. I can tell you that I've been out there among Republicans. And what they object to is a lack of a set of principles. What does this man stand for? It's not just the economic decline, but a sense that the core value system is very narrow. And people find that objectionable in a president.

Let me take one more.

Yes. I can't see through the lights so you're going to have to presume I'm looking at you.

QUESTION: Senator I want to ask you about—for somebody who almost made it back to California and didn't—can you tell us about Florida? Do you think that your problems had to do with your attacks on Clinton because you're not particularly comfortable with that kind of campaigning. That's question number one. Question number two, do you have any predictions for the master's race?

TSONGAS: I'm not gonna come in second, I'll tell you that, in the Master's swim race; probably come in sixth. The reason I dropped out of this race was because of the way I was going I would not have been competitive at the National Swimming Championships. So this is just an attempt to get back to training that really counts.

I think what happened, if you look, if you go back and look at this campaign. New Hampshire, we all spend a lot of time, they got to know us all, people were given the book, and the issues were debated. We won, despite issues of electability and despite being written off, all of that kind of thing. Then we go into Maryland, Washington State, Utah, Arizona, we win. When you get into the large states, where media buys have impact, what would happen, what happened in Florida, as you know in Texas, but let me use Texas as as an example. In Texas, you had Bill Clinton's standing and mine start off at three and we just kept on going up, and then the media buys kicked in and bang.

And that's the reality I had to face last night, that in New York I would run into the same thing—that as we did well, and the media buys kicked in, and we had no capacity to respond, the same thing would happen. And leave me out, the message would have been hurt in the process.

And so at 9:30 last night—you know, I talk about hard choices and fiscal responsibility—well, I had that choice last night. It's not easy getting out because we believe in what we stand for. This was purpose; it was not ambition. But the fact is, that's the reality that confronts me; that is the choice that I had to make. And I can't go around this country asking Americans to make difficult, hard choices if I'm in a position where I am unable to do it for my own campaign.

As further proof of that axiom, look at Illinois. Before we went into Illinois, the numbers were something like 31:26, and then his media kicked in and we got blown away. Now we picked up six or seven points at the end when we did our debates and campaigning and our media, but the fact is, you cannot go in to major media states without resources and expect that somehow by divine intervention, the truth about you will be known. And you are defined under those circumstances, and it is better, if that is the harsh reality, to recognize that and then step back and ask yourself the question: How do we safeguard the message? The message is our keeping. How do we fulfill that obligation? And thus the very painful decision last night to simply suspend the campaign.

I will finish if I might, by saying to all of you that I hope that you are satisfied in your soul with what we've done. I'd like to thank all those who contributed, about what 30,000 people contributed to this campaign. I'd like to thank all those who worked for us around the country.

And finally, I'd like to again, thank the press for the safeguard role that they play. Because the fact is politicians are politicians, and this country can only survive if there is checks and balances, and that is the role that the press must play. As I said, I was not always pleased with what was written about my candidacy and our prospects, etcetera but I think on balance, they were very fair. And I'm very grateful to have been treated with that objectivity.

So a year is over. Today's what, it's the 19th. One year and 12 days. A great adventure, a great adventure. This is the big leagues. This is where you affect your country, and this one year and 12 days I think we've done more than all the other years I put into public service, and I'm proud to be an American. Thank you.

    #  #  #

Tsongas spoke for about 12 minutes, then fielded questions for a bit more than 21 minutes.  He stated, "This campaign was lost in 1991 because of the lack of resources. It was almost rescued in 1992 by the message."  Tsongas noted that while he felt "lousy" the previous night, he now felt good, and indeed he made an number of jokes during the press conference.  Reactions: C-SPAN.