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Santorum suspends campaign for GOP presidential nomination

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania suspended his presidential campaign Tuesday, removing the final major hurdle for Mitt Romney to win the Republican nomination and marking the unofficial beginning of the general election battle with President Obama.

With his wife at his right hand and most of his children surrounding him, Mr. Santorum said the illness of his daughter Bella, and this weekend's prayerful Easter celebration, made him rethink his chances and his priorities.

"We will suspend our campaign effective today," he said at an event in Gettysburg, Pa., promising that he will continue to fight for conservative values and to help Republicans try to defeat Mr. Obama in November.

His withdrawal two weeks before Pennsylvania's primary averts what had been shaping up as a final clash, and leaves just Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul — who combined have won only two states — as the only other candidates still competing with Mr. Romney.

Mr. Gingrich immediately made an appeal for Mr. Santorum's supporters, asking them to join his struggling bid.

"I am committed to staying in this race all the way to Tampa so that the conservative movement has a real choice," the former House speaker said.

For his part Mr. Romney, having swept primaries in Maryland, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia last week, had already turned his attention to Mr. Obama and the general election, and Mr. Santorum's exit legitimates that decision.

"Senator Santorum is an able and worthy competitor, and I congratulate him on the campaign he ran," Mr. Romney said in a statement. "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."

Mr. Santorum leaves having won primaries and caucuses in 11 states — second to Mr. Romney — and, by his own count, won more counties than Republicans in the rest of the field combined.

His initial victory came in Iowa's caucuses, where he was the only Republican never to lead in the polls, but had a stunning last two weeks of campaigning that catapulted him to victory. On the night of the caucuses it appeared Mr. Romney had won by a handful of votes, but by the time a full recount was finished Mr. Santorum sat at the top.

He went on to win across the Midwest and South, chiefly on the strength of religious conservatives' votes. But was unable to expand his support beyond that to capture the big states such as Florida, Michigan and Ohio, all of which Mr. Romney won.

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