Breaking: Daschle drops out; Update: I did it because of the Times, says Daschle; Update: Senate support was collapsing

That’s two today. Maybe Geithner will resign too and we’ll make it a trifecta.

Tom Daschle has withdrawn his nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary. That’s according to a joint White House statement from President Barack Obama and his former nominee.

Obama said Tuesday he accepted the withdrawal “with sadness and regret.”

Stand by for updates. While we wait for details, any obvious candidates to replace him as the man who’s going to usher in the new golden age of “free” health care? I wonder if Hillary’s regretting taking the State position. Exit quotation from Thomas Ricks, via the Standard: “That sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach is caused by the course of Obama’s cabinet picks: Richardson blew up on the launch pad, two of the more prominent picks have tax problems, his CIA pick seems inexplicable, his no. 2 guy at the Pentagon needed a waiver from his new anti-lobbying rule, and Hillary Clinton and her hubbie strike me as a ticking bombs.”

Update: The full White House statement:

“This morning, Tom Daschle asked me to withdraw his nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services. I accept his decision with sadness and regret.”

“Tom Daschle has devoted his life to public service and health care reform, so that every American has access to health care they can afford. I had hoped that he could bring this passion and expertise to bear to finally achieve that goal, which is so essential to the progress of our economy and the well-being of businesses and families across our nation.

“Tom made a mistake, which he has openly acknowledged. He has not excused it, nor do I. But that mistake, and this decision, cannot diminish the many contributions Tom has made to this country, from his years in the military to his decades of public service. Now we much move forward, with our plan to lift this economy and put people back to work.”

Update: Cornyn calls him “Geithner on steroids.” It wasn’t the GOP that sunk him, though, it was the Times. Like Purple Avenger said, if you’ve lost the Praetorian Guard, you have no friends left. Belated exit question: Would he have fought on if not for Killefer’s withdrawal? He has a lot of old friends in the Senate who might have been willing to look the other way.

Update: Commenters are murmuring about Howard Dean for HHS. Er, don’t he and The One have issues?

Update: Another question swiped from the Killefer post: What on earth are Team Barry’s vetters thinking? They probably figured, correctly, that the public would swallow Geithner’s cheating because no talent can be spared to help get us out of the economic crisis. But what was the thinking on Dachle and Killefer? Did they think the public was so high on The One that the tax-dodger narrative wouldn’t stick with no fewer than three prominent examples of it in the news? Call it the audacity of Hopenchange.

Update: Confirmed: Daschle told Andrea Mitchell that he knew he was at endgame when he lost the Praetorian Guard.

Update: Was it really the Times, or did someone from the Senate clue him in that he was facing a humiliating rejection?

Democrats insisted they put no pressure on Daschle to quit. “I really hadn’t decided how I would vote,” said Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.

But privately, they noted that he was headed for trouble because the confirmation vote would not occur until next week, allowing the grass roots effort against him to grow, and at least one Senate committee was likely to hold another public hearing on his nomination.

“This hadn’t reached the ‘grocery line’ test yet,” said Nelson, meaning people back home were not talking about it casually, “but we found it was something they were concerned about.”

Update: Treacher wonders if the liberals who fretted so much over McCain’s poor vetting have anything to say now.