DES MOINES, Iowa - Rep. Tom Tancredo, who built his long-shot presidential campaign on opposition to illegal immigration, dropped out yesterday and endorsed Republican rival Mitt Romney.

Tancredo, a five-term congressman from Colorado, announced his withdrawal two weeks before Iowa begins the presidential nominating process.

He said he was dropping out in part because of concern that staying in could split the vote for other candidates who have taken a hard line on immigration, helping those who would take a less restrictive approach.

"I fear remaining in this race, one which I cannot win, would contribute to the nomination of one of these candidates," he said.

Tancredo identified Mike Huckabee and John McCain as two Republican candidates whose records indicate they would not be tough enough on immigration.

He said Romney has a proven record of opposing illegal immigration while governor of Massachusetts.

Romney, campaigning in Iowa, issued a brief statement thanking Tancredo for the endorsement.

- AP

Figures attached to matching funds

WASHINGTON - John Edwards' presidential campaign is entitled to $8.8 million in federal matching funds and John McCain's could get $5.8 million, election regulators said yesterday.

The amounts are part of $19.3 million the Federal Election Commission certified for seven presidential candidates who asked to be eligible for the matching funds. Candidates who get the funds must abide by spending limits.

The $19.3 million includes $2.1 million for Tancredo, who dropped out yesterday.

Edwards has said he will accept the money. McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said the campaign had not yet decided whether do so. The others certified for public money are Democrats Christopher J. Dodd, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Dennis Kucinich, and Republican Duncan Hunter.

- AP

Giuliani 'great' after hospital stay

ST. LOUIS - Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani was released yesterday from a St. Louis hospital after spending the night to undergo tests for flulike symptoms. His campaign said he would make planned stops in New Hampshire tomorrow and Sunday.

"I feel great. Take care. Merry Christmas. I'm feeling fine thanks to the hospital," Giuliani said as he left Barnes-Jewish Hospital en route to returning to New York.

The former New York mayor felt the symptoms while campaigning in Missouri, and they soon worsened, campaign spokeswoman Katie Levinson said late Wednesday.

The campaign said results of precautionary tests performed by doctors were normal. Giuliani's wife, Judith, said he would have a follow-up visit with his doctor.

- AP

McCain says his ethics are intact

WASHINGTON - Sen. John McCain, rising in the polls, defended his integrity yesterday, declaring he had "never done any favors for anybody - lobbyist or special-interest group."

The Republican candidate made the remark in Detroit when asked about a report that the New York Times was investigating allegations of legislative favoritism by McCain. The Arizona Republican acknowledged that his campaign aides have had discussions with the Times regarding its inquiries. Times spokeswoman Catherine J. Mathis declined to comment.

McCain and four other senators were accused two decades ago of trying to influence banking regulators on behalf of Charles Keating, a savings-and-loan financier later convicted of securities fraud. The Senate Ethics Committee said McCain had used "poor judgment" but also said his actions "were not improper" and warranted no penalty.

McCain has said that episode helped him launch his drive to change campaign finance laws to try to reduce the influence of money in politics.

Also yesterday, the Boston Herald endorsed McCain for president in an editorial posted online.

- AP