Former Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe won't run for president in 2020

Dem says he'll focus on helping Va. candidates

By Dan Merica and Caroline Kelly, CNN
Win McNamee/Getty Images

(CNN) - Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will not run for president in 2020, he announced Wednesday.

"I've listened to the Virginians and I'm going to help Virginia for the next six months. I could spend eight months traveling around the country running for president, or six months really making a difference," the Virginia Democrat told CNN's Chris Cuomo during an exclusive interview on "Cuomo Prime Time."

McAuliffe said that, after being courted by state Democrats, he would be "going home" to help coordinate the campaigns of the state's national and local Democrats.

"I'm going to work the next six months every single day to make sure Virginia, we win the House and the Senate, and then next year I'm going to work like a dog to make sure that we are blue," he said. "We were the only southern state that went for Hillary in 2016, very proud of that. We need to do it again in (20)20."

McAuliffe expressed confidence Wednesday that "I could really make a difference" and beat "Trump like a rented mule."

"But we've got issues in Virginia and I'm concerned about Virginia, and since February we've had a lot of problems there," he added, in an apparent reference to the blackface and alleged sexual assault scandals that engulfed local Virginia Democrats earlier this year.

McAuliffe also hinted at the difficulty of entering a quickly crowding Democratic field, pointing to the choice of "getting in with a field of 20 today and trying to get your message to break through, where tomorrow I can make a real difference in the commonwealth of Virginia."

But McAuliffe left the door open to a possible future run.

"I would loved to have done it as president," he said. "I'm still a young man, we'll see what happens. But this is a real opportunity -- I started it, I need to finish it."

When asked by Cuomo whether he may jump in the race at a later time, McAuliffe replied: "I've committed to helping."

The announced decision ends months of speculation around whether the Virginia Democrat would enter the 2020 field.

McAuliffe has been considering a bid for months, and Democrats close to the former governor told CNN in March that he was leaning toward running for president.

McAuliffe also teased a possible run earlier this month when he told a union audience in Washington that he was "very close" to making a decision.

At another point in that speech, he said, "If I were president of the United States," when speaking about an issue.

With the exception of Vice President Joe Biden, few in the field of potential Democratic candidates are more familiar than McAuliffe with the rigors of a presidential race. For nearly a quarter-century, he campaigned extensively in each race for Bill and Hillary Clinton and is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

He also had a stable of Democratic donors ready to help fund a primary campaign, if he had decided to officially launch a bid.

McAuliffe believed, according to people close to him, that he could win in this Democratic environment and made clear to people he talked to that he feels the best person to beat Trump is someone who can attack his business record.

The former governor showed that earlier this month when, at the same union speech, he needled Trump's toughness.

"If I can wrestle an alligator, I can certainly wrestle Donald Trump," McAuliffe boasted, retelling a story about how he once wrestled an alligator for a politician contribution."

But his campaign would also have come with baggage: Democrats and Republicans alike could have used his deep ties to the Clintons as a knock against him and his brand of liberalism, which is more pro-business and moderate than the base of the party.

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