Back when this crazy race began, Mitt Romney seemed to have it all. In an election campaign where the issue of the economy was central, this candidate had the support of Wall Street and the White House. But paralysed by a bid to cater to conservatives and centrists, and kneecapped in his bid for the conservative vote by no-hope (he thought) Huckabee, the Republican presidential nomination was never meant to be for this Mormon.

Why I would have voted for him: Romney’s decision to “stand aside,” and especially the reasons he gave just now in his CPAC speech underscore the qualities I found so compelling in him, and confirm for me my decision to support him made many months ago. Had the conservative movement more quickly recognized these qualities, the coming together around Romney that has occurred in the last few weeks would have assured him the nomination and, I think, the White House. But it didn’t, and now the task is to assure that Senator McCain succeeds President Bush for the very reasons Mitt Romney outlined today. — Hugh Hewitt, Townhall

A graceful exit: Mitt Romney’s decision to stand aside and acknowledge Sen. John McCain as the likely Republican nominee will serve the former Massachusetts governor well in his future endeavors. He will be well-positioned to run for office — national or state — anytime he wants. He is certainly an automatic leading candidate for the nomination in 2012, should Republicans fail to capture the White House in November. McCain was gracious to Romney in his speech today, but some of his advisers understand that something substantive has to come from Romney’s concession. — Marc Ambinder, Atlantic.com

Romney ran a fake campaign: Here lieth the campaign of Mitt Romney, victim of the mistaken belief that the only way to succeed in national Republican politics was to turn yourself into something you are not. Or maybe the campaign revealed what his closest friends never imaged him to be. They thought he was a decent classy guy. But maybe he really is a soulless throat-cutter who would do and say anything to win. — Romney’s Phony Campaign

The conservatives feel shafted: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham aren’t the only conservatives in agony over John McCain. The base is bummed. At the Portofino Hotel in Orlando, Fla., where Rudy Giuliani went down with a graceful valedictory concession, an energetic Rudy guy in dark glasses and slicked black hair — hours before ebulliently cheering up anyone who would talk to him — ran up to a reporter waiting for a car. “My wife just heard. Rudy’s gonna endorse McCain! S—!!!!” Conservatives can’t catch a break. Taxes, judges, the culture — somewhere a conservative is always getting shafted. — Daniel Henninger, RealClearPolitics

McCain must reach out to the right: McCain began his speech by ad libbing some remarks about the departure of his top rival. Calling Romney – whom he could hardly veil his distaste for when they were running against one another – “a great governor,” McCain said he just had a phone conversation with his former competitor. “I congratulated him on running an energetic and dedicated campaign,” McCain said. “We agreed to sit down together, and we agreed on the importance to unite our party.” He promised to run a campaign based on “conservative principles,” and said to those who had been backing Romney: “You are welcome to join my campaign.” Then he made the pitch directly to the hold-outs in the crowd.
His carefully-prepared speech cited conservative icons past (Edmund Burke, twice) and present (Ronald Reagan) and was peppered with reminders of shared battles and values. — Politico

Peter Fray

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