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Long after defeat was obvious, Gingrich ends GOP presidential campaign

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Newt Gingrich's turbulent bid for the Republican presidential nomination ended Wednesday, closing a raucous chapter in the GOP race that saw the outspoken, often outrageous former speaker of the House tumble rapidly from front-runner to also-ran.

He suspended his campaign -- effectively ending it -- in a small meeting room at a hotel in this Washington suburb.

He didn't offer an endorsement of presumptive nominee Mitt Romney -- that's expected sometime in the future -- but he came close. "I'm asked sometimes, is Mitt Romney conservative enough, and my answer is simple: Compared to Barack Obama? 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," Gingrich said.

Gingrich's farewell to the race was full of his trademark bravado and rhetoric. For 22 minutes, he offered his views on a wide range of subjects.

With wife Callista by his side, he vowed they would "focus on a series of key issues and try and educate the country." He listed spending, space, healthcare, the work ethic, China, Yemen and a host of other subjects. He joked about his low points, recalling his January comment that a moon colony is in America's future.

He said that his wife reminded him at least 219 times "that 'moon colony' was probably not my most clever comment in the campaign. I thought frankly that in my role of providing material for Saturday Night Live, it was helpful."

Gingrich ends his campaign with an estimated debt of at least $4 million. The Romney campaign has said it will help him pay it off.

Romney issued a brief statement Wednesday but did not mention the debt. "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," Romney said. No plans for a joint Romney-Gingrich appearance have been announced.

Obama's campaign released a video of Gingrich's barbs at Romney. He had called the Romney campaign "very, very worrisome," called Romney the most anti-immigrant candidate, and a liar.

Romney has 847 delegates to August's Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., with 1,144 needed for the nomination. Gingrich has 137.