(CNN) – Newt Gingrich announced the suspension of his presidential campaign Wednesday in Virginia, a little less than a year after the former House speaker officially launched his White House bid.
"Today I am suspending the campaign but suspending the campaign does not mean suspending citizenship. Callista and I are committed to being active citizens," Gingrich said at an event in Arlington. "Now we're going to put down the roles of candidate and candidate's spouse and take up the role of active citizens."
Gingrich thanked his supporters, chronicled his life in public service, vowed to continue fighting for his policy ideas and expressed support for presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
News of his impending departure from the race first broke last week amid falling poll numbers, significant campaign debt, disappointing fundraising figures and a string of electoral losses.
The Gingrich and Romney campaigns have spoken consistently since Gingrich signaled he would pull out of the race this week.
In his speech Wednesday, Gingrich stressed the importance of defeating President Barack Obama in the November general election.
"I'm often asked if Romney is conservative enough and my answer is simple, 'compared to Barack Obama?' You know 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."
Gingrich's spokesman R.C. Hammond said the former Georgia representative would spend most of the summer and fall on the campaign trail stumping for candidates.
Gingrich was left for political dead last year after his top campaign advisers quit but experienced a resurgence in late 2011, due in part to a Republican electorate unsure about Romney, the GOP frontrunner.
However, he failed to win early election benchmarks, only capturing two early voting states, his native Georgia and South Carolina. Gingrich said he will "feel slightly guilty" every time he goes through South Carolina for breaking the state's tradition of voting for the eventual Republican presidential nominee since 1980.
Despite a string of election losses and armed with only 141 delegates, Gingrich continually vowed to stay in the race until the August convention in an effort to elevate his self-described "big ideas," including his American energy plan and broad education reforms.
On Wednesday, he vowed to continue working on behalf of "American exceptionalism" and said he and his wife would continue to campaign on behalf of American energy independence and health care reform while promoting mental health awareness and a country that is capable of combating global threats.
"With every great challenge, Americans have reinvented themselves and their country," Gingrich said. "Callista and I pledge to work with you and with every American who wants to create that better future."
His speech grew personal when he talked about his grandchildren, Maggie and Robert, who joined him on stage and often appeared with him at campaign events. He became emotional when he mentioned them, pausing for a few seconds before thanking them for being the “two best debate coaches.”
In a statement released Wednesday, Romney said Gingrich demonstrated "eloquence and fearlessness in advancing conservative ideas" throughout his campaign.
"Although he long ago created an enduring place for himself in American history, I am confident that he will continue to make important contributions to our party and to the life of the nation," Romney said. "Ann and I are proud to call Newt and Callista friends and we look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead as we fight to restore America's promise."
Another former opponent, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, also responded to the news of Gingrich's decision, saying the former speaker ran a "spirited campaign."
"As he exits the race for the Republican nomination, I'd like to acknowledge my former colleague in the House Newt Gingrich for running a spirited campaign. In particular, I want to thank the former Speaker for echoing my calls for monetary policy reform including a full audit of the Federal Reserve, steps that will bring America closer to lasting economic prosperity for middle-class Americans who bear the brunt of the dangerous and unjust inflation tax," Paul, who remains in the race, said in a statement.
Also in a statement, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus congratulated Gingrich on his presidential run.
"Speaker Gingrich has been a tireless leader in our party for decades, and I know he will continue to be an outspoken advocate for conservative policies and Republican principles–not only in this election, but also for years to come," Priebus said.
Read more: Gingrich's 2012 campaign leaves him with mixed legacy
– CNN's Mark Preston, Kevin Bohn, Gabriella Schwarz and Shawna Shepherd contributed to this report.
Newt has been officially bowing out since Sunday. He's like a prima donna on an endless succession of farewell tours.
"Oh I'm gonna be the nominee." –Newt Gingrich
Can I get an Amen?
Another endorsement for the third party candidate Mitt "too Legit to Quit" Romney. It's going to be fun watching the MSM and Romney backers stare in shock when RP is nominated. When you don't have politicians running a political party, its easy to take it over and oust the elite businessmen who have destroyed our country through infiltrating Washington, but know nothing about politics. Mitt made money standing as close to the Fed-Owned Printing Presses as possible. In a true free market economy, Mitt would borrow at the same interest rates as everybody else, and the business model that made him millions would have been nullified and worthless.
Ron Paul 2012 and Beyond!
The only thing better than his leaving is the fact he milked some right wing sugar daddy for millions. We saw him do that to conservative Georgia, now he took his act to Vegas. Atta boy Newt, you still have that Midas touch.
...And I want a refund for my moon colony ticket.
Newt and his wife are walking off into the sunset to fight for "Exceptionalism"!
Watch out Callista – when you get sick or old your hubby will dump you for a new model.
Bye, Newt! Don't let the door hit you on the rump on your way out!
He failed as Speaker of the House, he failed as a husband twice, and he failed as a presidential candidate. He did, however, succeed in tricking lots of rich people into giving him money.
That it took so long says more about us than about him. Our nation should have long ago branded him and Clinton with the scarlet letter. We have lost our sense of shame.
I'd like to see him commit to paying off his campaign debt as an "active citizen." I'll just bet that he never makes an attempt to pay off the vendors that he still owes. Good thing he didn't become president!
He was talking about his book ,look like book tour
Oh well...back to being the spokesman for Michelin and Pillsbury.
I agree, his campaign was done almost a yr ago, just took this big head frownie face till now to notice it himself, even Regan is laughing in his grave!!
Now if only obamwa and mitts would bow out.
Now the newt will put on the GOP knee pads, and suck up to Mittens to retire his campaign debt!
We won't miss you, petty, spiteful, egotistic little man!
"He failed as Speaker of the House, he failed as a husband twice, and he failed as a presidential candidate."....................................His psychiatrist told him to run for president as a form of therapy.
Very sad that he felt a need to deliver his own LLLOOONNNGGG eulogy. But also consistent with his pathological and myopic self-absorption. And proof that worthless people eventually fade away.
Was he still on Race? I wonder for what or why? We all know Romney won't quit until he's lost in this November.
Newt is hilarious "bowing out" from something no one ever even considered him "in" other than himself. Oh, while i'm here, i'd like to offically announce my retirement from Major League Baseball.
This will free up more time that he can devote to his first love: fudge.
"You know 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." I died. Where does he come up with this stuff?
"suspending the campaign does not mean suspending citizenship", WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?
"Callista and I are committed....?" If only this clown had been as committed to his pre-Callista wives, he might still have a shred of credibility among non-knuckle-draggers. Nah, scratch that - he'd still be the same buffoon he is now.