SIMI VALLEY, California (CNN) - Rudy Giuliani – who led Republican national presidential polls for months – announced his endorsement of new GOP frontrunner John McCain Wednesday, calling the Arizona senator “an American hero."
Giuliani officially ended his run at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California – with John McCain and his wife Cindy by his side - after coming in third in Florida’s presidential primary Tuesday, behind McCain and former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney.
The former New York City mayor had staked his political future on a solid showing in the state after skipping the critical early-voting contests of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Giuliani and McCain have been friends for years, and had mostly restrained from attacking each other during the campaign. Both have faced mistrust from their party’s conservative base. And both share a common antipathy for McCain’s chief remaining rival, Mitt Romney.
During his announcement, he managed to work in a dig at Romney, who has been criticized by his opponents for shifting positions on some issues. Given his longtime admiration for McCain, said Giuliani, "If I'd endorsed anyone else, you would say I was flip-flopping."
Giuliani – whose run, like McCain's, had been based on strong foreign policy and national security themes - said he was completely invested in the senator’s run now, and would actively campaign for him wherever he was needed, in states like New York, New Jersey and Illinois.
Speaking after Giuliani, McCain called the former mayor “a national hero.”
“I'm honored by his friendship," he said.
The remaining Republicans meet tonight at the Reagan Library for a presidential debate co-hosted by CNN, the Politico and the Los Angeles Times.
–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand