Tennessee Senator Bill Frist, the outgoing Republican leader of the U.S. Senate, has decided against running for president.
Frist, a surgeon who entered politics, had been contemplating a run for the White House in 2008, but aides say he will make a formal announcement at midday in Tennessee that he is not running.
Brian Kennedy, a Quad Cities lawyer who’s a former chairman of the Iowa Republican Party and a candidate for congress this past spring, had been helping Frist lay the groundwork in Iowa for a presidential campaign. “(Frist) had focused on the job he had to do through 2006 was really campaign on behalf of others so it wasn’t really until after the election that he would seriously contemplate running for president,” Kennedy says. “From what I understand, he just didn’t feel this was the right time to take that step.”
Kennedy says one of the reasons he was attracted to Frist was because of Frist’s background in health care. “Somebody who had spent 20 years as a practicing physician, as a…surgeon,” Kennedy says. “The perspective he could bring to really challenging the country to take on the health care reform debate I thought would be critical to his success in 2008.”
Frist’s political fortunes were tied to whether he and his fellow Republicans retained control of the U.S. Senate, and Democrats managed to win a majority of seats in this month’s election. During visits to Iowa this summer and fall, Frist had repeatedly said he was ready to move on to a new chapter in his life after the election, and that included a possible return to the private sector. Kennedy predicts Frist will one day return to public life. “It’s disappointing because he has very much to offer the process and the country,” Kennedy says. “I think this isn’t the last we’ve heard from Bill Frist.”
Frist vowed to serve just two terms in the U.S. Senate and his second term expires in January. Frist was elected Republican leader of the U.S. Senate when former leader Trent Lott resigned after making complimentary comments about a former segregationist who ran for president.