SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani officially dropped out of the GOP presidential race Wednesday and endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain, saying he hoped the party's nominee would be decided quickly.

Giuliani's announcement came just hours before the remaining Republicans in the race, including Mitt Romney, were to take the stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential library for their final debate before so-called "Super-Duper Tuesday," when voters in Utah and more than 20 other states go to the polls.

He had been expected to end his run for the White House after trailing badly in Florida's winner-take-all Republican primary Tuesday. Giuliani had banked on winning the Sunshine State to kick start his campaign, but finished third behind McCain and Romney.

Asked if his endorsement of McCain meant the end of Romney's presidential run, Giuliani said, "My endorsement means my endorsement. It's a positive endorsement for a great American and a person who is a great friend of mine who I believe is at this point, the best qualified person to be president of the United States."

Giuliani told reporters he had long considered McCain the party's best choice — after himself, of course. "Obviously, I thought I was that person. The voters made a different choice," he said. And had he backed another candidate after making public statements to that effect in the past, Giuliani told reporters, "you would say I was flip-flopping."

That was as close as he came to directly criticizing Romney, whose positions on a number of key conservative issues including abortion have changed recently. McCain, the former mayor said, "came from way behind to go way ahead and once again displayed his tenacity, his courage and his ability to get things done."

Giuliani said McCain, like him, wants to build a stronger and broader Republican party that embraces "all races and all religions in all 50 states." He promised to campaign for McCain in New York and anywhere else he was asked.

McCain accepted the endorsement with his wife, Cindy, by his side, and promised, "it will be a clear choice this November." But he stopped short of saying there could be a McCain-Giuliani ticket on the general election ballot, noting his ego was not that big.

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