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Newt Gingrich is out. He formally announced today what had been widely expected for weeks, that he is withdrawing from the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Gingrich won just two states during a campaign that was at times on life support. He did not formally endorse Mitt Romney today, but he did offer some slight praise for the presumptive nominee. NPR's Brian Naylor has our report.
BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Gingrich's announcement at a suburban Virginia hotel this afternoon was a lot like his campaign appearances. With his wife, Callista, at his side, Gingrich was in turns combative, scathingly partisan, wonky and starry eyed. He said the past year had been amazing. He thanked voters in South Carolina and Georgia, the two primary states he won, and his at times beleaguered campaign staff.
NEWT GINGRICH: I also want to thank members of the team who are here somewhere around, who stuck with us through the whole process, which was a truly wild ride. And absolutely - despite all the experiences I've had over the years - I could never have predicted either the low points or the high points. I mean, it was all just sort of amazing and astonishing.
NAYLOR: The low points included losing much of his staff last summer when Gingrich's campaign almost collapsed. But while the campaign regained its footing, Gingrich could never quite overcome questions about his controversial political views and personal life, nor could he amass the resources to take on Mitt Romney. Today, he offered, if not a formal endorsement, a clear sign of support for Romney.
GINGRICH: 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 and Ronald Reagan. This is a choice between Mitt Romney and the most radical, leftist president in American history.
NAYLOR: That kind of rhetoric was a staple of his campaign speeches where he called Mr. Obama a food stamp president. But Gingrich was often just as harsh on Romney, as the Obama campaign helpfully pointed out in a video it posted. It shows clips of Gingrich harshly criticizing Romney's leadership of the private equity firm Bain Capital.
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GINGRICH: You would certainly have to say that Bain at times engaged in behavior where they looted a company leaving behind 1,700 unemployed people. There was a pattern in some companies, a handful of them, of leaving them with enormous debt, and then, within a year or two or three, having them go broke. I think that is something he ought to answer.
NAYLOR: Today, though, Romney issued a statement saying Gingrich has brought creativity and intellectual vitality to American political life and that he looks forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.
Gingrich was noteworthy for some of the unorthodox ideas he proposed during his campaign, such as encouraging schools to hire students as janitors and his admittedly grandiose visions, the most famous of which, establish an American colony on the moon. Gingrich poked some fun at that notion in his announcement today.
GINGRICH: My wife has pointed out to me approximately 219 times, give or take, three, that moon colony was probably not my most clever comment in this campaign. I thought, frankly, in my role as providing material for "Saturday Night Live," it was helpful.
NAYLOR: In his remarks, Gingrich thanked Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, whose multimillion dollar injections of cash into the superPAC that supported Gingrich, kept his campaign afloat. Still, the former speaker exits the race with a campaign more than $4 million in debt. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.
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