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Romney to announce he won't seek re-election

Governor is expected to seek GOP presidential nomination in 2008

Governor Mitt Romney will announce at 6 p.m. that he will not seek re-election to a second term, setting the stage for an expected campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, a senior aide to the governor said today.

The aide told the Boston Globe that Romney will announce that he will fill out his term, which ends in January, 2007. The move is widely seen as another step in his plans to launch a presidential campaign. His announcement today is expected to be televised live from the State House.

The 58-year-old businessman, son of former Michigan Gov. George Romney, has spent less than three years in elective office, but in that time the state has closed a $3 billion budget deficit without raising taxes, schools have scored first in national math and science tests and Romney held out until the Legislature gave him a tough new drunken driving law he demanded.

Romney began calling supporters and other political figures this afternoon to let them know of his decision. In between calls, he was putting the "final touches" on his announcement speech, which his wife, Ann, planned to attend, the source said.

The governor and his wife were scheduled to visit the Globe Santa sleigh in the city's bustling Downtown Crossing area at mid-afternoon, but the appearance was abruptly canceled. The source said the governor instead attended a luncheon for Hurricane Katrina volunteers at a nearby private club, after attending a Christmas party for members of the Governor's Council in his closed suite of offices.

The announcement ends months of speculation over whether Romney, who took office after winning the 2002 gubernatorial election, would seek the presidency after only one term in office. He confirmed last spring that he was testing the presidential waters. During the past year, he has made frequent trips out of state, often to states that are considered key primary battle grounds in a presidential campaign.

His decision not to run for re-election clears the way for his hand-picked successor, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, to officially launch her campaign. She is expected to face opposition from businessman Christy Mihos.

In the Democratic primary, Attorney General Thomas Reilly and former civil rights enforcer Deval Patrick are seeking their party's nomination.

Romney had cast himself as "a red speck in a blue state" during an October speech to a Washington think-tank, one of many similar comments across the country during the past year that had been viewed as disparaging Massachusetts -- the land of the Kennedys and two failed Democratic candidates for president portrayed as out-of-touch liberals.

Should he run for president, a decision he is expected to announce closer to the 2008 election, Romney will need to break through a pack of more prominent Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

There has also been an undercurrent of concern among Christian conservatives, particularly in the vital South, rooted in his Mormon faith. One political operative in South Carolina branded the religion a "cult."

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.)

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