Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tells the Conservative Political Action Conference today he’s suspending his run for the White House (WND photo)

WASHINGTON — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announced today he is suspending his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

The announcement came during a scheduled speech at the influential Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington where an enthusiatic crowd’s cheers turned to boos and shouts of “No, no” as it became clear Romney was indicating his decision to withdraw.

Romney said that while he disagrees with front-runner Sen. John McCain on many issues, battling all the way to the convention would “forestall the launch of a national campaign, and frankly I’d be making it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win. Frankly, in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.”

“If this were only about me, I can go on,” he said. “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 I now have to stand aside, for our party and for our country.”

Romney was introduced by talk-radio host Laura Ingraham as the “conservatives’ conservative.”

The decision clears the path to the GOP nomination for McCain, who solidified his position as front-runner with coast-to-coast wins on Super Tuesday.

David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, a co-sponsor of CPAC, told WND’s Jerome Corsi after hearing Romney’s speech that he understood the candidate’s calculus as he faced an uphill battle to get the required number of delegates.

“Romney’s problem as a candidate is not the same as our problem as conservatives,” he said. “If McCain is the nominee, we as conservatives have to decide what we’re going to do, if we’re going to support him or not.”

Mitt Romney speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference today (WND photo)

After losing 14 of 21 states Tuesday, Romney insisted he would fight on until the convention. But his meeting with key supporters yesterday prompted speculation he might drop out.

McCain is scheduled to make an important speech this afternoon at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he will try to rally support from members of a GOP base largely skeptical of his conservative credentials.

Analysts see Romney’s decision to drop out now as a gesture of goodwill to set the stage for a possible future run.

A senior member of Romney’s inner circle told the Politico online news site the former governor intends to run again in four years.

“He should be president. 2012,” the confidant e-mailed after talking to Romney.

Josh Romney, one of the governor’s five sons, told the Politico his father sounded upbeat when he informed family members last night of his decision to withdraw.

“He felt that he still had a shot at winning the nomination,” Josh Romney said. “But for the good of the party and the nation, he didn’t want to have a long, drawn-out battle.”

Romney told CPAC he wouldn’t move off the public stage, saying he looked “forward to joining with you many more times in the future.”

“I will continue to stand for conservative principles; I will fight alongside you for all the things we believe in,” he said. “And one of those things is that we cannot allow the next president of the United States to retreat in the face of evil extremism.”


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