John McCain effectively sealed the Republican presidential nomination today as chief rival Mitt Romney suspended his faltering presidential campaign.
“I must now stand aside, for our party and our country,” Romney told conservatives.
“If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror,” Romney told the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
Romney’s decision leaves McCain as the top man standing in the GOP race, with Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul far behind in the delegate hunt. It was a remarkable turnaround for McCain, who some seven months ago was barely viable, out of cash and losing staff. The four-term Arizona senator, denied his party’s nomination in 2000, was poised to succeed George W. Bush as the GOP standard-bearer.
Romney launched his campaign almost a year ago in his native Michigan. The former Massachusetts governor and venture capitalist invested more than $40 million of his own money into the race, counted on early wins in Iowa and New Hampshire that never materialized and won just seven states on Super Tuesday, mostly small caucus states.
McCain took the big prizes of New York and California.
“This is not an easy decision for me. I hate to lose. My family, my friends and our supporters … many of you right here in this room … have given a great deal to get me where I have a shot at becoming president. If this were only about me, I would go on. But I entered this race because I love America,” Romney said.
There were shouts of astonishment, with some moans and others yelling, “No, No.”
Romney responded, “You guys are great.”
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