WASHINGTON — Presidential contender Mitt's Romney reaffirmed to Utah congressional Republicans that his reason for suspending his campaign on Thursday was to avoid "crippling" the eventual Republican nominee causing that they might lose to either Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama in November.

Romney briefed Utah's GOP membership shortly after announcing his decision to suspend campaigning in a speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.

"I wasn't expecting it, but I guess I wasn't surprised," said Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, who added the CPAC conference was "as good a venue as all" for him to pick to leave the race.

"You may be doing the right thing in terms of a Republican victory in the fall, but we need you, we need your voice, we need the things you stand for to continue to be supported," Bennett told Romney.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who himself ran unsuccessfully for the party's presidential nomination in 2000, called Romney's withdrawal "classy" and said it was handled in the best interest of our nation.

"It's the kind of thing you would expect a really really outstanding person to do," said Hatch. He said Romney could have stayed in and probably won more delegates but might have forced the decision to go to the Republican National Convention.

"As long as Huckabee was in the race, they are going to split the votes of the Republicans there is no question about it," Hatch said. "If Huckabee hadn't been in the race I think Romney would have done very, very well. It would have been a much closer race, and I think he would have won."

Bennett said the last minute surge for Huckabee in Iowa robbed Romney of a victory everyone expected him to have.

"If he had won Iowa and he had won Florida, he would be the nominee," Bennett said. "He would be in the position that McCain is in."

Bennett said Romney was leading in Florida right up to the weekend, when popular Gov. Charlie Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez endorsed McCain and that was just enough to cause Romney to lose Florida.