Newt Gingrich can now call himself a former presidential candidate.
The former House speaker bowed out of the Republican presidential contest Wednesday as expected, just short of a year after he got into the race. And without using the word "endorse," he did just that with a vow to help Mitt Romney defeat President Barack Obama in November.
After losing contests in five states last week, Gingrich said it was clear that Romney would be the nominee and signaled that his topsy-turvy campaign had reached its end.
Gingrich now has the added challenges of rebuilding his image as a one-man GOP idea machine and paying off more than $4 million in campaign debt.
Gingrich said the campaign was "an amazing year" for his entire family.
Joined by his wife, Callista, he made the announcement at an Arlington, Va., hotel, across the river from Washington.
"Today, I'm suspending the campaign," Gingrich told reporters, "but suspending the campaign does not mean suspending our citizenship."
On Tuesday, Gingrich thanked supporters in a video message posted on his website, saying their "help was vital." He pledged to work hard to prevent the "genuine disaster" he says would come from re-electing Obama, but did not mention Romney, the all-but-certain GOP presidential nominee.
The Obama campaign on Wednesday released an 80-second web video that compiled clips from interviews and debates during the Republican primary where Gingrich criticizes Romney on issues ranging from immigration to his tenure as a venture capitalist. "Newt Gingrich: Frankly, not Mitt Romney's biggest supporter," the ad states.
Gingrich won only two contests — in South Carolina and in Georgia, which he represented in Congress for 20 years. His campaign has reported being more than $4 million in debt.
Gingrich, who rose to be the most powerful Republican in the United States during his leadership of the House in the 1990s, finished first in two of the 31 states that have voted in the 2012 presidential contests.
Until word of his decision to drop his presidential bid last week, the onetime front-runner has been largely out of media glare in recent weeks. His biggest headline came after an encounter with a biting penguin at the St. Louis Zoo left Gingrich with a bandaged finger.
More than any other presidential candidate, Gingrich felt the impact of independent "Super PACs," the political action committees that have no limits on how much money they can raise or spend in support of candidates.
Throughout the primary season, Gingrich depended on the largesse of a PAC called Winning Our Future, which has received at least $21.5 million in donations from billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his family. At the same time, a pro-Romney PAC, Restore Our Future, spent $19 million on ads attacking Gingrich.
In December, the former speaker led in the polls in Iowa, the first state to hold a nominating contest. But after a barrage of ads from Restore Our Future that cast Gingrich as a Washington insider with questionable ethics, he plummeted to a fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3.
Gingrich's campaign regrouped and captured South Carolina on Jan. 21, but then was hit again by the pro-Romney group's attack ads before the next major primary, in Florida. The former speaker's campaign did not recover from that assault, and was unable to keep raising enough money to cover its expenses.