Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announced today he is abandoning his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, arguing a long protracted battle between him and his GOP rivals would weaken the party.
Romney made his announcement during a scheduled speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, a yearly gathering of conservatives in Washington, D.C.
"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 Sen. Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama would win," Romney said.
"And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror," he said.
Romney made the decision after his chief rival, Sen. John McCain, won multiple Super Tuesday primary and caucus victories this week, and former Gov. Mike Huckabee -- who was thought locked out of a two-man GOP race -- had a surprisingly strong Super Tuesday performance.
The former Massachusetts governor said he was dropping out of the race because he doesn't want to see the Democrats win in November.
"If this were only about me, I would go on. But it's never been only about me. I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America, in this time of war, I feel that I must now stand aside, for our party and for our country," Romney said.
"I will continue to stand for conservative principles," he said. "We cannot allow the next president of the United States to retreat in the face of evil extremism."
Romney and McCain have fought over who is more conservative in recent weeks, with Romney repeatedly calling himself a "Ronald Reagan" Republican.
But now it appears more likely than ever that the Republican presidential nominee will be McCain.
With his good looks and vast personal fortune, Romney was an early favorite to win the Republican nomination. The venture capitalist turned politician banked on strong performances in Iowa and New Hampshire to steam roll his way to the nomination.
This fall, Romney was leading in the polls in both states, and frequently refrained that "no one has ever won both," referring to Iowa and New Hampshire, suggesting he was poised to become the unstoppable candidate.
Early on he tried he head off questions about his Mormon religion by delivering a speech designed to assuage the concerns of Christian evangelicals.
"If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause and no one interest. A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States," Romney said in December in Texas.
Romney led polls until Huckabee saw a late surge among evangelical Christians to win in Iowa, and McCain, after a near collapse early in his campaign, saw his own late surge in New Hampshire.
After being buoyed by a win in his home state of Michigan, Romney lost both South Carolina and Florida to McCain.
Romney had hoped to pull out a strong performance Tuesday, trying to present himself as the conservative alternative to McCain.
In the days before Feb. 5, Romney campaigned hard against front-runner McCain, trying to tie his record to that of Clinton and Obama and paint him as a liberal.