A week after his staff said he would be heading to the political sidelines, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced he is suspending his bid for the Republican presidential nomination and is offering his support to former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.
Speaking in Virginia on Wednesday afternoon, Gingrich pledged to be an active citizen who would remain engaged on public policy, promising a deep commitment to American exceptionalism and American history. He also pledged to continue to fight for a large role for religion in the public square, energy exploration, international affairs, Social Security reform and reducing the federal debt.
Gingrich said that conservatives should back Romney over President Barack Obama in the general election. In fact, there has been buzz that the former congressional leader could go to bat for Romney despite the heavy fire their campaigns exchanged. Looking to make some political hay, the Obama team launched a video featuring Gingrichs attacks on Romney.
Despite his rivalry with Romney, Gingrich focused his fire on Obama on Wednesday.
Slamming Obama as the most radical leftist president in American history, Gingrich said Republicans need to get behind Romney in November.
"This is not a choice between Mitt Romney and Ronald Reagan," Gingrich said.
The former congressional leader will campaign with Romney down the road, when an official endorsement is expected.
For his part, Romney offered words of praise Wednesday for his former rival.
Newt Gingrich has brought creativity and intellectual vitality to American political life," Romney said. "During the course of this campaign, Newt demonstrated both eloquence and fearlessness in advancing conservative ideas. Although he long ago created an enduring place for himself in American history, I am confident that he will continue to make important contributions to our party and to the life of the nation. Ann and I are proud to call Newt and Callista friends and we look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead as we fight to restore Americas promise.
Gingrichs campaign was a bit of a roller-coaster ride, as he admitted in ending his presidential bid.
It was all sorts of amazing and astonishing, Gingrich said as he reviewed his campaign.
Starting off near the top of the polls, Gingrich stumbled in 2011 as the former congressional leader faced staff defections and questions about his focus. A series of conservative candidates -- U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, businessman Herman Cain and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas -- eclipsed Gingrich during the latter half of 2011, but they all rose and fell.
After a series of strong debate performances, Gingrich climbed back into the race and went on to win the South Carolina primary in January. He led in the polls in the pivotal state of Florida but faced a barrage of attacks from Romney who went on to win the Sunshine State. While Gingrich won his home state of Georgia on Super Tuesday, he finished behind former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania in a number of Southern states he had targeted.
Last week five states in the Northeast held primaries and Gingrich focused on Delaware. But he still placed behind Romney who swept all the contests. After that, Gingrichs team revealed that its candidate would bow out of the race, though the candidate did stump in North Carolina. The Tar Heel State holds its primary on May 8 and Gingrich will remain on the ballot there.
With Gingrich out of the race, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is the only major candidate challenging Romney for the Republican presidential nomination.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.