Gingrich may ask Romney's help with campaign debt

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - Newt Gingrich made it official Wednesday: He's no longer a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination.

It's no surprise. And a lot of Republicans are asking what took him so long to drop out.

He leaves the race with a handful of delegates and an enormous campaign debt.

"Today," Gingrich announced, "I'm suspending my campaign."

People were predicting Gingrich would drop out almost from the time he first got into the race. But he ignored his critics and the skeptics. He kept beating that drum and going and going. But now the batteries have finally run out.

Even as he said goodbye, Gingrich stayed true to form, sounding like a professor giving a lecture that went to the moon: "I'm cheerfully going to take back up the issue of space," he said.

And back: "I'm going to continue to work on American energy independence."

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Gingrich admitted what we all knew: His campaign was a wild ride.

Gingrich admitted what we all knew: His campaign was a wild ride.

He's been a non-contender for months, skipping key primaries, traveling cross-country with his wife, Callista, taking in a baseball game, and visiting multiple zoos.

All the while, his campaign piled on debt. He leaves the race owing close to $4 million - money his campaign spent on private jets, advertising and consultants, among other things.

Money like that often takes candidates years to pay off.

Full CBSNews.com coverage: Election 2012

John Edwards owes more than $300,000 from his 2004 presidential run. Rudy Giuliani is $2.6 million in debt from his campaign in 2008.

And President Obama's campaign is helping Hillary Clinton pay off debt she collected when she ran against him.

The man Gingrich will likely turn to for help in paying off his debt is his one-time bitter enemy, presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

But Gingrich stopped short of endorsing Romney on Wednesday, repeating a reporter's question in saying, "Is Mitt conservative enough? My answer is simple. Compared to Barack Obama?"

Sources say Gingrich met this week with Romney's campaign manager to talk about the role he's going to play going forward.

He's going to focus mainly on fundraising for House and Senate candidates and the Republican Party. But in that fundraising, Gingrich will be able to accept donations, as well, that he can put toward paying down his own campaign debt.

To see Jan Crawford's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Jan Crawford On Twitter» On Facebook»

    Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Political and Legal Correspondent. She is from "Crossroads," Alabama.

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