-- For Mitt Romney, it appears that the third time is not the charm.
On a conference call with supporters on Friday, Romney said he was taking a pass on another White House bid.
“After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee,” Romney said.
Listen to an audio clip of the call:
Romney did not endorse any of the numerous potential Republican candidates who have expressed interest in running for president.
“I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well-known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat[ic] nominee," Romney said. "In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.”
Romney has been flirting with another White House run in recent weeks, and looked like he was edging closer to a bid -- until today.
"I’ve been asked, and will certainly be asked again, if there are any circumstances whatsoever that might develop that could change my mind. That seems unlikely," Romney said. "Accordingly, I’m not organizing a PAC or taking donations; I’m not hiring a campaign team."
He then essentially released his donors, telling them they were free to support other candidates.
Just Thursday, Team Romney suffered a high-profile defection that agitated members of Romney’s inner circle when former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is seriously considering a 2016 run, announced he was signing up David Kochel to oversee his exploratory efforts and ultimately run his campaign.
Kochel is one of the best Republican operatives in the business, based in Iowa, but involved in races across the country. He was a core part of Romney’s 2008 and 2012 teams, but he is also close to Mike Murphy and others in the Bushes' orbit.
Matt Rhoades, Romney's 2012 campaign manager, told ABC News: "Mitt Romney is a good man who always does the right thing for his party and our country. Working for him is an experience I will always cherish. I look forward to seeing what new big challenge he tackles next."
Though the former Republican presidential nominee's message on the call was clear, he also sounded notes of confidence, asserting that he was “convinced we can win the nomination” and would have enough funding to do so. But he acknowledged, it would be a “difficult task.”
He even said he would have the “best chance” to beat the Democratic nominee, specifically citing the new focus on poverty that he has been talking about in recent speaking appearances.
Nevertheless, Romney told supporters he did not want to make it "more difficult for someone else to emerge who may have a better chance of becoming that president."
He added, "You can’t imagine how hard it is for Ann and me to step aside, especially knowing of your support and the support of so many people across the country."
Romney ended the call without taking questions.
Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another potential 2016 contender, will dine together this evening, a source familiar with the plans told ABC News. This news, which was first reported by The New York Times, comes after the recent meeting between Jeb Bush and Romney last week.
Bush was among the first probable Republican White House hopefuls to weigh in on Romney's announcement.
"Though I’m sure today’s decision was not easy, I know that Mitt Romney will never stop advocating for renewing America’s promise through upward mobility, encouraging free enterprise and strengthening our national defense," Bush said in a statement. "Mitt is a patriot and I join many in hoping his days of serving our nation and our party are not over."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said of Romney: "He certainly earned the right to consider running, so I deeply respect his decision to give the next generation a chance to lead."
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., noted: "I hope to work together with him to grow our party and lead our country forward."