RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
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Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was at the Ronald Reagan library yesterday, but not to join the Republican debate that was scheduled for their -later. He was there to official announce his exit from the race and simultaneously endorse Senator John McCain.
NPR's Ina Jaffe reports.
INA JAFFE: If Rudy Giuliani wanted a huge crush of reporters to witness his official withdrawal from the presidential race, he picked the right place.
The media were out in force for the final Republican debate before Super Tuesday. But Giuliani said that the real reason that the Reagan library was the right place for this event was…
Mr. RUDY GIULIANI (Former Republican Mayor, New York): Because President Reagan's leadership remains an inspiration for both John McCain and for myself.
JAFFE: But before Giuliani announced what everyone already knew, he took a moment to reflect. When you run for president, he said, you spend a lot of time thinking about what qualities a president should have.
Mr. GIULIANI: Someone who can be trusted in times of crisis. Someone with a clear vision about the challenges facing our nation. Someone with the will and perseverance to get great goals accomplished. Obviously, I thought I was that person.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. GIULIANI: The voters made a different choice.
JAFFE: Giuliani spent relatively little time talking about himself, however, instead using the few minutes he spoke to praise McCain.
Mr. GIULIANI: John McCain is the most qualified candidate to be the next commander in chief of the United States. He is an American hero and America could use heroes in the White House. He's a man of honor and integrity. And you can underline both, honor and integrity.
JAFFE: Giuliani began his campaign as the national front-runner but with an unorthodox strategy. He skipped the Iowa caucuses and other early contests to focus on Florida. A win there was supposed to give him momentum for the more than 20 races on February 5th. But, instead, it was McCain who won Florida and Giuliani finished the distant third.
In accepting Giuliani's endorsement, McCain portrayed him the way Giuliani has portrayed himself during his campaign, as the hero of 9/11.
Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): And I saw Rudy Giuliani unite this nation in a way that made us all proud. And all of us where were recommitted to defeating the terrible evil that attacked New York City on September 11th.
JAFFE: Giuliani said he'd campaign for McCain in New York and California, wherever he could be useful.
Mr. GIULIANI: I am fully aboard 100 percent. I don't do things halfway. I do them 100 percent. And when I believe in a man like I do John McCain, this will become, to me, as important as my own election was.
JAFFE: But in recent weeks, Giuliani has trailed McCain in the polls in California and even in his home state of New York. And after last night's debate in which McCain and Mitt Romney fought tooth and nail over who's more conservative, it's unclear how helpful this endorsement from the moderate Giuliani will be, says political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe.
Ms. SHERRY BEBITCH JEFFE (Political Analyst): That small percentage of Republicans who voted for Giuliani will move to McCain. They would have done it anyway.
JAFFE: Later today, McCain is expected to wrack up a more important endorsement, at least in the delegate-rich state of California, when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger gives him his backing.
Ina Jaffe, NPR News.
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