Santorum ends ‘love affair with America’

photo via cleveland.comRick Santorum’s White House came to a screeching halt Tuesday afternoon as he announced his decision to suspend his campaign at a press conference in Gettysburg, Pa.

“We were very concerned about our roles as being the very best parents has we can be to our children,” Santorum said. “We made a decision over the weekend while this presidential race is over to for me and will suspend our campaign effective today – we are not done fighting.”

Santorum compared his quest to promote freedoms espoused in the Declaration of Independence and to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address in 1863.

The candidate’s decision comes a day after the release of his daughter, Bella, 3, who suffers from Trisomy 18, a rare and usually fatal genetic disorder, from a Virginia hospital.

His abrupt pullout of the race comes two weeks before the Pennsylvania primary that was widely seen as his last opportunity. Santorum’s surrogates were bragging privately as recently as last week that they felt that Pennsylvania could be winnable for them and that a string of Southern primaries in May in places like Texas with large Evangelical populations put the former Senator in a good position to be competitive.

Santorum faced an uphill fight to win his home state where the state GOP apparatus was firmly in Mitt Romney’s pocket according to insiders.

One Republican state representative told Red Alert Politics last month that Santorum could theoretically win the popular vote but end up losing all of Pennsylvania’s delegates to Romney because of party rules.

The former Pennsylvania Senator accomplished what many thought was impossible with the least amount of resources of almost any presidential candidate in modern political history. Santorum managed to win 11 states and keep nipping at Romney’s heels despite consistently being outspent by a wide margin.

“Against all odds, we won 11 states, millions of voters, millions of votes, we won more counties than all the other people in this race combined,” Santorum said. “I found a deeper love for this country.

“It was a love affair for me, going from state to state and seeing the differences and seeing the wonderful, wonderful people of this country who care deeply about where this country is going.”

Santorum emerged as the anti-Romney among conservatives who were uneasy about the former Massachusetts governor’s centrist record – especially Evangelicals who objected to his Mormon religion.

Santorum consistently won in states with large Evangelical populations while suffering defeats in places like Michigan and Ohio with larger Catholic populations that he had hoped to win.

“At a time when over and over again we were told, ‘Forget it, you can’t win,’ ” Santorum said. “We were winning. We were winning in a very different way because we were touching hearts. We were raising issues that, well, frankly, a lot of people didn’t want to have raised.

“We can’t have a strong economy, as you’ve heard me say over and over again, without strong families and a strong moral fiber that makes us the moral enterprise that is America.”

Santorum also added color to the race in the form of the sweater vests that became his campaign’s trademark after the Iowa caucuses.

His exit also came as many of the GOP’s heavy-hitters  such as former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., lined up behind Romney and as calls for Santorum to drop out
increased.

Romney, the man who stands to gain the most from Santorum’s exit, praised his now former rival for running a competitive race.

“Sen. 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,” Romney said. “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.”

While former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who recently laid off numerous campaign staffers and scaled back his schedule, praised Santorum and called for his supporters to rally to his cause.

“Rick has waged a remarkable campaign,” Gingrich said. “His success is a testament to his tenacity and the power of conservative principles. “

Gingrich’s remarks come two days after his saying he could support Romney should he be the nominee.

Meanwhile, Texas Rep. Ron Paul is making waves about winning the 152 delegates now that Santorum’s White House bid is history.

Red Alert Politics Editor Francesca Chambers contributed to this report.

 

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