“It’s been a long and expensive two years. But it’s been fun.”

“I am learning about cars,” Mr. Gingrich explained to a lone reporter on the fringe of an entourage that otherwise included local Republican officials, Penske executives and about 12 people wearing earpieces…

One of the quirky indulgences of modern campaigns is that candidates announce their intent to run for president on multiple occasions — essentially, stunts to milk media attention. They announce the formation of exploratory committees, announce that they intend to run, announce that they are actually running, etc.

Ever the innovator, Mr. Gingrich has applied that ritual to quitting. While he has had no realistic chance of overtaking Mr. Romney for several weeks, he maintained until recently that he would stay in the race all the way to the Republican National Convention.

But at some point, Mr. Gingrich started referring to the race in the past tense. He shed nearly all of his staff. He pinned his hopes on Tuesday’s primary in tiny Delaware, saying that he would reassess if he lost — which he did, by almost 30 points.