Giuliani Ends White House Bid, Endorses McCain

As was the plan even before Rudy Giuliani's Florida firewall turned to ash, the former mayor boarded a plane to California Wednesday morning.

Once there, instead of participating in the Republican debate, he droped out of the presidential race and endorsed Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

"John McCain is the most qualified candidate to be the next commander in chief of the United States," Giuliani said, announcing his decision at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley. "He's an American hero."

Before the announcement, on the afternoon flight from Dallas to Burbank, Giuliani told reporters that he was disappointed not to stay in the Republican race for the White House but that he was proud to be supporting McCain.

"I think I made it clear during a debate that if I had not been running, I would be supporting John McCain. So I'm not running, and I'm supporting John McCain and he is far away the best person to be the commander in chief of the United States," Giuliani said.

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On the plane. Giuliani also acknowledged a "great significance" in making his announcement and endorsement at the Reagan Library.

"Ronald Reagan had a high regard for John McCain. John McCain also sees Ronald Reagan as his hero. So we share that very much in common. Obviously it is fortuitous that we can do it there, since the debate is gonna be there tonight," Giuliani said.

Giuliani explained his McCain endorsement "is not a why not Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee. I admire both men," Giuliani explained. "I went through a unique experience with them for a long time. I have grown to respect them. I am convinced that John McCain is the best choice for president of the United States."

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Giuliani said it was too early to tell if he would run for public office again.

"I found in life, when you make a never statement, you could still change your mind, but you have it up on YouTube nowadays," he said with a laugh. "All I can tell you is my intention is to be in private life. I am gonna give some thought to exactly how."

Fallen Front-Runner

Following the Florida primary results, Giuliani's postelection speech to a modest crowd of supporters at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando delivered the message that his campaign was over fairly clearly.

He kept his humor about him. Responding to a friendly cheer from the audience, Giuliani laughed and quoted "the great American philosopher Yogi Berra. … 'It's not over until it's over.'"

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But with Giuliani's poor showing, far behind McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, in a state he said he had to win, it was clearly over, Berra's maxim notwithstanding.

"Like most Americans," Giuliani said, "I love competition. I don't back down from a principled fight, but there must always be a larger purpose -- justice for an individual, hope for a city, a better future for our country. Elections are about a lot more than just candidates."

Negotiations between the Giuliani's and McCain's campaigns were still ongoing as Florida returns came in, with ABC News and other organizations projecting a McCain win in the Sunshine State. But sources close to both campaigns confirmed the plan.

"We ran a campaign that was uplifting," Giuliani said, not officially leaving the race but speaking in the past tense. "The responsibility of leadership doesn't end with a single campaign. If you believe in a cause, it goes on and you continue to fight for it, and we will."

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