Santorum Suspends Presidential Campaign

BY Christina Bellantoni and Katelyn Polantz  April 10, 2012 at 2:21 PM EDT

Updated, 3:46 p.m.

Rick Santorum is suspending his presidential campaign, the former Pennsylvania senator announced at a news conference in Gettysburg, Pa.

“Miracle after miracle this race was as improbable as any race you have seen for president,” he said. “Against all odds we won 11 states.”

“While this presidential race for us is over, for me, and we will suspend our campaign effective today, we are not done fighting,” Santorum said, as his family stood by his side at the podium.

The announcement clears Pennsylvania for Mitt Romney to win the state’s April 24 primary, according to polls from last week. And, Santorum’s suspension will likely allow Romney a mathematical path forward to grab the party’s nomination to challenge President Obama.

Romney has built a strong lead toward the 1,144 delegates needed to win the party nod, but the former senator kept Romney from the figure as evangelical and working-class voters dubbed Santorum the conservative alternative.

After Santorum’s announcement, Romney called Santorum an “able and worthy competitor” and “an important voice in our party and in the nation” in a news release.

And a statement from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus commended Santorum’s grassroots support.

“He has decided to put his country, party and desire to defeat President Obama ahead of any personal ambition,” Priebus’ statement said. “I applaud his decision and congratulate him on the campaign he has run.”

Santorum and others had been saying they would continue battling until the Republican National Convention regardless of the delegate tallies. But after Romney’s victory in battleground Wisconsin last week, the candidates all took a step back.

Santorum has taken the last few days off the trail to spend time with his ailing 3-year-old daughter, Bella, who was released from the hospital in Virginia early Tuesday morning.

He said in the news conference that she is doing well and is back with the family.

“This was a time for prayer and thought over this past weekend,” he said. “It did cause us to think with the role we have as parents.”

Republican candidates Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul remain in the race with single-digit support in the polls. And their campaigns gave no indication they will bow out.

Gingrich said in a statement that Santorum has “waged a remarkable campaign.”

He added:

“His success is a testament to his tenacity and the power of conservative principles. I am committed to staying in this race all the way to Tampa so that the conservative movement has a real choice. I humbly ask Senator Santorum’s supporters to visit Newt.org to review my conservative record and join us as we bring these values to Tampa. We know well that only a conservative can protect life, defend the Constitution, restore jobs and growth and return to a balanced budget.”

Paul’s Campaign Chairman Jesse Benton offered similar remarks:

“Congratulations to Senator 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 emerged as a contender for the 2012 Republican nomination late in 2011, narrowly winning the Iowa caucuses to capture national attention. He did it on a shoestring budget and with limited staff.

In many states, Santorum failed to match Romney in spending.

Santorum served as a Pennsylvania senator from 1994 to 2006. He lost his seat in a landslide to Democrat Bob Casey in 2006.

Republicans in Pennsylvania, including Gov. Tom Corbett, hesitated to stand behind the home-state candidate as Romney seemed more likely to be the victor.

Visit our Vote 2012 Map Center to see how Santorum performed across the country during the primary season so far.

Tune in to the Tuesday NewsHour broadcast for more on Santorum’s announcement and what comes next in the race for the White House.