Trailers Drop Out, McCain to Snag Key Endorsement

WASHINGTON -- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was to endorse Republican John McCain on Thursday, a major boost for the presidential candidate in a narrowed race heading into next week's pivotal nomination contests in over 20 states.

The Arizona senator has pulled ahead of his main Republican rival Mitt Romney, who promised to fight aggressively for the nomination, as Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama prepared for a Thursday night debate in their battle for the Democratic nomination. Republican Rudy Giuliani and Democrat John Edwards dropped out of the race on Wednesday.

Senior aides said Wednesday that Schwarzenegger was planning to back McCain, offering the Vietnam veteran a good shot at taking California's huge number of delegates. The state votes next week on "Super Tuesday" and offers nearly 15 percent of the total delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination. Giuliani, whose campaign failed to catch fire after a strong start, also endorsed McCain, calling him "an American hero."

Romney planned to try to derail McCain's campaign by running a "significant" number of television ads in California and other states, aides said Thursday. The former Massachusetts governor has been debating how much of an effort to make in the 21 states that hold Republican primaries and caucuses Tuesday and had previously suggested that he was not ready to commit to a costly campaign.

He is trying to get back on track after two straight losses to McCain -- in South Carolina on Jan. 19 and more recently in the winner-take-all state of Florida. That victory gave McCain the advantage in the all-important delegate count as well as the momentum in the Republican race.