Newt Gingrich bows out with qualified endorsement of rival

May 3, 2012

By Paul West, Los Angeles Times

ARLINGTON, Va. — Newt Gingrich finally ended his Republican presidential candidacy Wednesday, unbowed and with a backhanded endorsement of the party’s presumptive nominee.

Flanked by members of his family at a suburban Virginia hotel, the former House speaker said he would work to elect Republicans at all levels this fall.

“As to the presidency, I’m asked sometimes, ‘Is Mitt Romney conservative enough?’ And my answer is simple: ‘Compared to Barack Obama?’ You know, this is not a choice between Mitt Romney andRonald Reagan. This is a choice between Mitt Romney and the most radical, leftist president in American history,” he said.

Technically, Gingrich “suspended” his candidacy, allowing him to turn his attention to retiring a campaign debt of more than $3 million. The announcement wasn’t news, since he had said last month that he would be doing so, after running out of excuses to keep going. His second and last primary victory was almost two months ago, in his former home state of Georgia.

Gingrich choked up once, briefly, at the outset, when he recalled a familiar line about his grandchildren, Maggie and Robert, being his best debate coaches. The youngsters stood alongside him on a small stage before several dozen supporters and aides.

The 68-year-old former Georgia congressman called his campaign “a truly wild ride,” adding, “I could never have predicted either the low points or the high points.”

In a rare self-deprecating aside, he referred to his campaign vision of a human colony on the moon by remarking that his wife, Callista, who nodded affirmatively as he spoke, had pointed out to him “approximately 219 times, give or take three, that ‘moon colony’ was probably not my most clever comment in this campaign. I thought, frankly, that in my role of providing material for‘Saturday Night Live,’it was helpful,” Gingrich said.

“What I called for is beginning to happen,” he went on to say, a reference to a recent, privately financed proposal to lasso an asteroid and mine it for minerals in outer space.

In classic Gingrich fashion, he began his farewell remarks by tracing his career in public life back to high school in the late 1950s. He also reprised many of the themes of his campaign and promised that, along with his wife, he would pursue them in the years ahead.

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