Gingrich Ends Bid, Offers Tepid Support to Romney

Gingrich Ends Bid, Offers Tepid Support to Romney

By Erin McPike - May 2, 2012

BALLSTON, Va. -- Newt Gingrich brought his turbulent campaign for the presidency to an official close here Wednesday, but vowed to remain active in the political process via the issues he cares about.

"Today I'm suspending the campaign, but suspending the campaign does not mean suspending citizenship," he told a small group of supporters and many more journalists crowded into a hotel ballroom.

In an at times self-deprecating speech, Gingrich profusely thanked many of the groups and individuals who supported him throughout his run. He teared up when singling out his two young grandchildren -- who flanked him on stage -- for serving as the "best debate coaches."

The former House speaker wound through a variety of issues he cares most about -- from space exploration to regenerative surgery -- to note some of what he'll work on as he pursues a career outside of electoral politics yet again.

Gingrich promised to focus on American energy independence, religious liberty and work ethic. Noting that some of his comments throughout the course of the campaign were controversial, he reiterated one of them: his belief that 99 weeks of unemployment benefits should not be distributed to anyone without a job training requirement. He also spoke with urgency about the need for a national debate over how to make Congress more effective.

But just as the House and Senate have seen gridlock in recent years, Gingrich's rocky relationship with Mitt Romney has presented a similar dynamic, and was a key component of the GOP primary dragging on for months. Many times this winter and spring, Gingrich insisted that no matter what, he would keep his campaign afloat all the way to the Republican convention in Tampa to force a floor fight against Romney. Gingrich long ago soured on the now-presumptive nominee and many times complained about the negativity Romney and his campaign directed at him and fellow contender Rick Santorum.

Upon his exit, Gingrich offered a tepid endorsement of his rival. Noting that he is often asked by conservatives if Romney is conservative enough, he said simply that the former Massachusetts governor is far to the right of President Obama, and that that is good enough for him.

The Obama campaign, eager to point out that many of those who support Romney aren't enthusiastic about him, dredged up old footage of Gingrich taking issue with his chief opponent. Announcing the video, the president's team asserted that Gingrich's exit and backing of Romney concludes "another chapter in a primary that has been a disaster for the Republican Party." The release continued, "But Gingrich’s support comes with some awkward memories: from questioning the motivation behind Romney’s Swiss bank account to calling Romney a liar, Gingrich has layered the presumptive nominee in criticism and disapproval."

For his part, Romney issued a statement cloaked in one of the biggest themes of Gingrich's campaign: His legacy in government and mark on history.

“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."

Rep. Ron Paul, who remains in the race despite failing to win a single primary or caucus, also weighed in on his opponent’s departure, acknowledging Gingrich “for running a spirited campaign. In particular, I want to thank the former Speaker for echoing my calls for monetary policy reform including a full audit of the Federal Reserve.” 

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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