Romney chooses to endorse McCain
By LIZ SIDOTI Associated Press Writer March 16, 2011 5:36PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Republican campaign dropout Mitt Romney agreed Thursday to endorse Sen. John McCain for the party’s presidential nomination and ask his national convention delegates to swing behind the front-runner, according to officials familiar with the decision.
Romney collected 280 delegates during his run through the early primaries and caucuses, enough to move McCain close to the total of 1,191 needed to clinch the nomination a full nine months before the November general election.
The officials who disclosed Romney’s plans did so on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting a formal announcement later in the day. McCain was campaigning in Vermont and Rhode Island during the day, and added a flight to Boston to appear with Romney to accept the endorsement at his waterfront campaign headquarters.
McCain effectively sealed the nomination last week when Romney withdrew from the race; only former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and libertarian-leaning Texas Rep. Ron Paul remain but both lag McCain in delegates to the GOP’s nominating convention this fall.
Romney’s decision marked a harmonious end to an occasionally contentious struggle between the two men over the party’s presidential nomination.
They criticized one another in television ads in state after state, a clash that effectively ended on Feb. 5, when McCain won a string of big-state primaries from coast to coast.
Officials said the former Massachusetts governor made his decision to back McCain earlier in the day, citing a desire to help the Arizona senator wrap up the nomination before too much more time passed and while Democrats still did not have a nominee.
McCain is on a steady march toward amassing the 1,191 delegates he needs, but Huckabee has proven an unexpectedly durable challenger. With a strong appeal to evangelical conservatives, Huckabee defeated McCain in two out of three states that chose delegates last weekend, and ran a far stronger race than expected before losing the Virginia primary on Tuesday.
McCain began the day with 843 delegates, to 242 for Huckabee.
At stake in Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary are 40 GOP delegates.
The former Massachusetts governor suspended his candidacy last week after it became apparent that toppling McCain would be near impossible to gain the delegates needed to defeat McCain.
In a speech before conservative activists in Washington, D.C., Romney acknowledged the difficulty in overtaking McCain. “I must now stand aside, for our party and our country,” he said at the time, adding that doing otherwise would increase the chances that Democrats would reclaim the White House.
At the time, Romney did not offer an endorsement, and McCain said he did not seek one when the two spoke by telephone.
Romney was the only one of McCain’s primary opponents who had resisted lining up behind the nominee in waiting; Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson both have endorsed him.