Rick Santorum ended his campaign for the US presidency this morning in Gettysburg, essentially sealing Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee.

“We made a decision over the weekend that while this presidential race for us is over, for me, and we will suspend our campaign effective today, we are not done fighting,” said Santorum. “We are going to continue to fight for those voices, fight for the Americans who stood up and gave us that air under our wings that allowed us to accomplish things that no political expert could ever have expected.”

Although he did not specify exactly why he was withdrawing from the race, Santorum did mention his daughter’s health issues. His three-year-old daughter Bella suffers from a rare genetic disorder called Trisomy 18 and was yesterday released from hospital after suffering a case of pneumonia.

Plus, Santorum was expected to be slaughtered by Romney in the upcoming Pennsylvania primary. Currently Romney has 660 delegates, while Santorum has just 281 — and of those, 84 were non-binding (meaning they did not have to vote for Santorum).

During his withdrawal speech, Santorum did not name his fierce opponent Romney, although it is expected that they will soon meet and Santorum will openly declare his support for a Romney presidential run.

Shortly after the surprise announcement, Romney released a statement congratulating his competitor:

“Senator Santorum is an able and worthy competitor, and I congratulate him on the campaign he ran. He has proven himself to be an important voice in our party and in the nation. We both recognize that what is most important is putting the failures of the last three years behind us and setting America back on the path to prosperity.”

But Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul remain in the race — although they are much further behind Romney than Santorum was. “I am committed to staying in this race all the way to Tampa so that the conservative movement has a real choice,” said Gingrich, as he asked Santorum backers to go to his website and consider supporting him.

Frontrunners Santorum and Romney have both struggled financially in recent months, reports The New York Times’ Caucus blog:

“Both candidates had faced fund-raising challenges in the coming weeks, with Mr. Santorum limping by on fumes and Mr. Romney rapidly tapping his top contributors for the maximum contribution, challenging him to seek out new sources of cash. Mr. Romney had committed $2.9 million to the Pennsylvania primary, hoping to deliver Mr. Santorum a knockout blow, and Restore Our Future had begun spending there as well.

Mr. Santorum’s withdrawal will allow both Mr. Romney and the super PAC to redirect that money to other states, either to head off any lingering challenge from Newt Gingrich and Representative Ron Paul of Texas, or to begin preparing for what seems to be an increasingly likely general election matchup against Mr. Obama.”

 

Santorum ran a great race, writes Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post:

“Santorum began the presidential race as an afterthought — at best. Having lost his 2006 reelection race by 18 points, the idea that Santorum could be a top-tier candidate in a presidential race less than six years later seemed farcical.

Throughout 2011, Santorum toiled at the margins of the contest. His level of perceived irrelevance was highlighted weekly as the crowd of candidates would gather for debate and Santorum would regularly be placed at the far ends of the stage.

Even while he was being ignored in the national conversation, Santorum embarked on what at the time seemed like a quaint yet antiquated strategy of visiting all 99 counties in Iowa, the first state to hold a 2012 vote.

As fall turned to winter and one-time conservative alternatives to Romney like Gingrich, businessman Herman Cain and Texas Gov. Rick Perry imploded, Santorum’s tortoise approach started to pay dividends.”

What next for Santorum? He’s not planning on leaving public life, say Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman in Politico:

“It’s very much an open question where Santorum’s political aspirations will lead. But on a Tuesday afternoon conference call, Santorum was already asking some of his strongest backers for advice on where he should next set his sights.

‘He conveyed his genuine sense of calling to public service — and public service means more than just elective office,’ said Colin Hanna, the Pennsylvania conservative activist who heads the group Let Freedom Ring. ‘He solicited suggestions from his supporters on how he could and should continue to give voice to the themes that touched so many, so positively, during his campaign.’

 

Peter Fray

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