Predicting politics is a terribly self-deceptive game and had Romney run, there was no guarantee, but he was clearly better positioned than anyone else to win the nomination. This was winnable. As for the general election against Hillary Clinton or another Democrat, who knows what 2016 will bring? It was at this point in 1991 that President Bush was so strong, no prominent Democrat had entered the race.

So why didn’t Romney take the next step? “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 nominee,” he said in his statement. After looking at it, considering it, he felt that it was right to give others a chance to step up and prove themselves, a process that will hopefully produce a very strong nominee.

It’s an unusual move. Before his call Friday, most political observers were predicting Romney would move forward, which seemed the safe bet. (Though Romney had consulted with a wide range of people while considering the race, only a handful knew of his final decision.) It’s rare that someone who has a very good chance to win a nomination, particularly for an open seat, would pass on the opportunity. But it’s consistent with who Mitt Romney is: a good and decent man, remarkably centered in his family and faith, who really does want what he believes is best for the country. He’s not a candidate driven by some personal anger, desperate to prove himself. If in a wide range of candidates there is a chance for the nominating process to produce a very strong candidate, he doesn’t want to put personal ambition before that possibility.