ARLINGTON, Va. -- A loquacious Newt Gingrich on Wednesday formally abandoned his presidential bid, but vowed to remain an active voice on conservative concerns.
The former House speaker suspending his campaign for the Republican nomination, a move that will enable him to continue to raise money to pay off his mounting debts. Money was a major factor in his decision to reverse his earlier promise to campaign all the way to the GOP convention in Tampa in defiance of rival Mitt Romney's success.
"I am asked sometimes, `Is Mitt Romney conservative enough?' My answer is simple: `Compared to Barack Obama?' " Gingrich said, in remarks lasting over a half-hour. "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."
Before the event began, Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond joked as he removed a sign labeling the venue a Hilton hotel, “We’re endorsing Romney – we need a Marriott sign,” alluding to the Romney campaign’s generous donations from the Marriott family. Still, Gingrich did not endorse Romney Wednesday; Hammond said afterward that endorsement would come soon at a forthcoming joint appearance with the former Massachusetts governor.
Hammond said the Romney campaign is “figuring out how they’re going to utilize Gingrich,” but added that they’ve “been very generous to open up their fundraising network to us.”
The Gingrich campaign has paid off about $500,000 in the month of April, Hammond said, slightly shoring up its debt total to $3.8 million. He said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has offered to help retire the debt.
Gingrich devoted much of his time Wednesday to ticking off a lengthy list of his remaining goals, ranging from dealing with threats from terrorism in Yemen to establishing a colony on the moon—an idea that provided fodder for late-night comics.
"My wife pointed out to me 219 times, give or take three, that [the] moon colony was probably not my most clever comment in the campaign," he said. "I thought frankly in my role as providing material for Saturday Night Live it was helpful, but the underlying key point is real."
Gingrich surged in the polls after his combativeness at televised debates endeared him to conservative activists. But he managed to win just two states—his home state of Georgia and neighboring South Carolina—and withered under a barrage of advertised attacks from the former Massachusetts governor and a super PAC supporting his candidacy.
In a statement after Gingrich's remarks, Romney said, “Newt Gingrich has brought creativity and intellectual vitality to American political life. 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."