Mitt Romney has pulled out of the battle to become the Republican candidate for the US presidency. Despite spending pots of cash, he'd been trailing behind John McCain, and on Super Tuesday failed to do much better than the similarly conservative Mike Huckabee. Mr Romney's decision effectively makes it certain Mr McCain will go forward to contest the presidential election in November, against either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.
This is bad news for the Democrats. The McCain team can now begin a national campaign, safe in the knowledge their man is the nominee. The full weight of the Republican party will probably now fall into line behind him, despite the grumbling from religious conservatives that Mr McCain isn't nearly right-wing enough for their tastes. Meanwhile, with the battle to be the Democrats' choice still so close, we may not find out who'll be their candidate for weeks or even months. That doesn't just give Mr McCain a valuable head start, it also increases the prospect of a bitter battle between the Democrats leaving that party divided and in bad shape for a general election campaign.
Another question to consider is that of John McCain's running mate. The surprise success of Mike Huckabee, the Bible-belt Baptist minister and former Arkansas governor, in the primaries makes him a potential choice. Certainly, his popularity with right-wing Republicans would help Mr McCain keep the party together. But consider this: with John McCain into his eighth decade, the idea of the vice-president being 'just a heartbeat away' from the top job becomes more significant. If anything did happen to a President McCain, we could find ourselves with a President Huckabee. That in itself should be enough for John McCain to see sense, and pick someone else.