Newt Gingrich - Reuters - 2.5.2012
Newt Gingrich departing after announcing that he is suspending his campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination at an event in Arlington, Virginia May 2, 2012. Photo by Reuters
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Newt Gingrich while announcing that he is suspending his presidential campaign in Arlington, VA, Wednesday, May 2, 2012. Photo by AP

Newt Gingrich ended his run for U.S. president on Wednesday, following a tumultuous campaign that left former governor Mitt Romney as the clear favorite to clinch the Republican nomination.

While the former U.S. House of Representatives speaker led some polls early on, and despite the generous contributions of Jewish-American mogul Sheldon Adelson, he never really gained momentum.

The former U.S. House of Representatives speaker, the face of the Republican party in the mid-1990s, badly trailed Romney in polls and his campaign fell into debt of $4.3 million.

Gingrich dropped his White House bid at a news conference in Arlington, Virginia, although he had not been campaigning properly for weeks after plunging in polls and cutting staff.

"I am asked sometimes - is Mitt Romney conservative enough? And my answer is simple: compared to Barack Obama?" Gingrich said. "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, who announced his departure from the White House race in a long statement to journalists in Arlington, had scaled back his campaigning for weeks after cutting staff.

With wife Callista by his side, Gingrich described his yearlong presidential bid as "truly a wild ride."

"I could never have predicted either the low points high points. It was all sort of amazing and astonishing," Gingrich said.

Though Gingrich had the support of one Super PAC, a pro-Romney group spent millions in negative ads attacking Gingrich as a Washington insider, which ended up taking its toll.

Author of the Contract With America that helped Republicans win back control of Congress in 1994, Gingrich won primaries in South Carolina and his home state of Georgia this year but failed to make a mark in larger states like Florida and Ohio.

Gingrich's run turned ideas like establishing a U.S. moon colony and having school children work as janitors into front-page fodder. His campaign descended into near farce last month when he was bitten in the hand by a penguin during a visit to a zoo in St. Louis.