Newt Gingrich announced he would be ending his presidential candidacy and gave half-hearted support to Mitt Romney, but vowed his big ideas weren't going anywhere.

A year and $4 million in debt later, the former House speaker said he and his wife, Callista, would end their role as candidate and candidate spouse while continuing to advocate for energy independence, religous liberty, an effective Congress, a moon colony and other issues he has taken up since he threw his hat into the race last May.

The whole process was truly a wild ride, Gingrich said. I could never have predicted the low points and the high points.

Gingrich reminisced about the brief success he enjoyed earlier in the year, weeks after the press had declared his campaign all but over after a massive exodus of his staff but before Romney and Rick Santorum pummeled him in delegates and primary wins. He said the Georgia and South Carolina primaries -- the only two states Gingrich had won -- were high points.

Romney didn't get a mention until the end of the 23-minute speech. Gingrich began expressing clear support for the presumed Republican nominee after a devastating lost in the Delaware primary on April 24, a state he had had high hopes in. Gingrich was also crushed in Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, where he was beaten by Rep. Ron Paul and a large margin by Romney.

I'm asked sometimes if Mitt Romney is conservative enough, and my answer is simple -- he is, compared to Barack Obama, Gingrich told a group of reporters from the Hilton Arlington in Virginia on Wednesday, adding that a Republican sweep would revitalize America.

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.

He took another brief, sarcastic shot at President Obama, referring to his surprise speech in Afghanistan at the eve of the Osama bin Laden death anniversary in which he announced the war would end by 2014. It was nice the president broadcasted from Afghanistan. The center of al Qaeda is Yemen .. I guess they didn't get the memo.

Shortly afterward, Mitt Romney tweeted, @NewtGingrich has brought creativity and intellectual vitality to American political life. Proud to call him a friend. 

The conference was not a surprise. Gingrich had announced he would suspend his campaign in a video to supporters yesterday and news that it was coming up was leaked last week. In the polls and in the primaries, Gingrich had been dragging for months.

The Gingrich campaign probably wouldn't have lasted as long as it did if it weren't for the help of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who poured millions of dollars into the pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future. Gingrich thanked the couple, saying it would be impossible for me to stand here if it weren't for them nearly matching Mitt Romney in campaign spending. 

Romney and Paul are the only major Republican candidates left, but the former Massachusetts governor's gaping lead and support from the Republican establishment make him a pretty sure bet to go against President Obama in the fall.

As for what lies ahead for the former Speaker? More books, speeches and big ideas.

I'm cheerfully going to take up the issue of space, Gingrich said, joking that his wife pointed out that moon colony was not the most clever phrase after it was mocked in the press and became material for Saturday Night Live.

I'm certainly we will get to the moon colony. [My grandkids] Maggie and Robert will have that.

He also added he'd like Maggie and Robert -- who he thanked for being excellent debate coaches -- live in an America that is debt free and has energy independence.

I'm confident about this future for Maggie and Robert because I've written four novels on George Washington ... four novels on the Civil War, Gingrich said, explaining he was experienced in American history and its struggles.

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