And I thought Mitt would have led our nation well. At every stage in his career, he’d led well — and with integrity. And while I didn’t agree with all the choices he’d made, I respected the way he made them. I appreciated that in an era of relentless media pressure to move left, during the course of his life he moved to the right, and with conviction.

Mitt Romney is a good man. Over the last eight years, my wife, Nancy, and I have had the privilege of getting to know Mitt and Ann, and when I deployed to Iraq they reached out to Nancy in meaningful ways — always indicating that they were thinking of me and praying for me. They hosted her at their home in Utah one weekend while I was gone, giving a struggling mom a much-needed weekend of rest. But those are minor stories compared to the myriad ways that Mitt and Ann support others — taking time from career and campaigns to serve those in need. It greatly distressed me that his campaign couldn’t bring itself to tell some of these stories until well after Republicans and Democrats had spent hundreds of millions of dollars mis-branding him as the second coming of Gordon Gekko.

But that is all in the past. For now, he has spared himself and his family a primary process that could well be more bruising than in 2012, he has preserved his ability to serve the potential Republican 2016 victor in the manner most helpful to the country, and — by making this announcement early — he has given his legions of loyal former staffers the liberty to choose to serve different candidates in time for their talents to make a difference.