Rick Santorum bowed to the inevitable on Tuesday and ended his bid for the White House, all but assuring that Mitt Romney will be the Republican candidate in November.
But he said the reason he was bowing out now had little to do with the almost certainty of defeat, but because of the worsening illness of his youngest daughter, 3-year-old Bella.
Bella, who suffers from a rare, life-threatening genetic condition, became ill on Friday and was hospitalized for the second time this year. That, said Santorum, is what convinced him and his wife, Karen, that the time had come to “suspend” his campaign.
“We had a difficult weekend. Good Friday was a little bit of a passion play for us, with our daughter, Bella, who is unfortunately getting very sick,” Santorum said at a press conference in Gettysburg, Pa., as he announced his decision. “We ended up in the hospital all weekend.”
He said Bella is now out of the hospital. “She is a fighter and she is doing really well,” he said.
But he said the weekend crisis had made him and Karen “pause and think” about their role as parents.
“This was a time for prayer and thought over this past weekend, just like it was when we decided to get into this race. Karen and I and the kids sat at the kitchen table and talked about our hopes and fears and our concerns.
“We were very concerned about our role as being the best parents we possibly could to our children and making sure that they had a country where the American Dream was still possible.
“A lot of concerns that we had, that Karen and I had in particular for our family, was that with what was going on in Washington, D.C., and all of the problems that you heard me talk about on the campaign trail, that the American Dream was not just slipping from the hands of average Americans,” Santorum continued.
The decision to end his campaign came after a weekend in which the former Pennsylvania senator had taken time off from the campaign trail to mark Easter and the 21st birthday of his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, but those celebrations were overshadowed by Bella’s illness.
Santorum called Romney to concede before making his announcement, Yahoo News reported. Romney immediately released a statement calling him “an able and worthy competitor,” and congratulated him on his campaign.
“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,” added the former Massachusetts governor.
The other two candidates left in the race, former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, also congratulated Santorum on his campaign and both vowed they would stay in the race, each claiming to be the true conservative.
“Rick has waged a remarkable campaign. His success is a testament to his tenacity and the power of conservative principles,” said Gingrich. “I am committed to staying in this race all the way to Tampa so that the conservative movement has a real choice.”
A statement from the Paul camp said, “Congratulations to Sen. Santorum on running such a spirited campaign. Dr. Paul is now the last – and real – conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. We plan to continue running hard, secure delegates, and press the fight for limited, constitutional government in Tampa.”
Santorum was a surprise as the last man standing with any serious chance of defeating Romney and gaining the nomination. He had seen the campaigns of Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain all fold after they had challenged the former Massachusetts governor in the polls.
He started the primary season by winning the Iowa caucuses, after they had originally been given to Romney and only after a recount. He continued to do well, winning 10 more states despite Romney’s vastly superior financial resources. But he could not rack up nearly the number of delegates that Romney attracted.
With Gingrich and Paul both polling at 10 percent or less, Romney now appears to have a clear run. He has already snapped up more than half the delegates needed to ensure his nomination at the Republican National Convention in August.
Santorum argued throughout that he was the only person with the conservative credentials to be able to go after President Barack Obama in the election.
He was particularly critical of Romney for signing a healthcare bill in Massachusetts which the administration says the president's Affordable Care Act was based on.
But as Romney streaked ahead in the polls, Santorum has found himself under increased pressure to pull out of the race, especially as his lead in his home state has been eroded by Romney and the prospect of being embarrassed by a defeat in Pennsylvania could have made his mind up for him.
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