By LIZ SIDOTI
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON – John McCain effectively sealed the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday as chief rival Mitt Romney suspended his faltering presidential campaign. “I must now stand aside, for our party and our country,” Romney prepared to tell conservatives.
“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 Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror,” Romney will say at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
“This is not an easy decision for me. I hate to lose. My family, my friends and our supporters… many of you right here in this room… have given a great deal to get me where I have a shot at becoming President. If this were only about me, I would go on. But I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America.”
McCain prevailed in most of the Super Tuesday states, moving closer to the numbers needed to officially win the nomination.
Overall, McCain led with 707 delegates, to 294 for Romney and 195 for Huckabee. It takes 1,191 to win the nomination at this summer's convention in St. Paul, Minn.
“I disagree with Senator McCain on a number of issues, as you know. But I agree with him on doing whatever it takes to be successful in Iraq, on finding and executing Osama bin Laden, and on eliminating al-Qaida and terror,” Romney said.
Romney acknowledged the obstacles to beating McCain.
“As of today, more than 4 million people have given me their vote for president, less than Senator McCain's 4.7 million, but quite a statement nonetheless. Eleven states have given me their nod, compared to his 13. Of course, because size does matter, he's doing quite a bit better with his number of delegates,” Romney said in prepared remarks.
Romney's departure from the race came almost a year after his formal entrance, when the Michigan native declared his candidacy on Feb. 12, 2007, at the Henry Ford Museum of Innovation in Dearborn, Mich.