WASHINGTON, April 10, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Tuesday announced his intention to suspend his presidential campaign, a move that essentially hands the GOP contest to top rival Mitt Romney.
Santorum, who had halted campaign events to tend to his ailing 3-year-old daughter Bella over the Easter weekend, made the announcement in a speech at Gettysburg Tuesday afternoon. Bella was discharged from a Virginia hospital Monday night after being admitted for pneumonia on Friday.
Bella’s condition, Trisomy 18, is a genetic disorder that renders children so fragile that they normally die before or shortly after birth. Bella also endured a serious spell of pneumonia, one of the condition’s common complications, in January.
“While this presidential race for us is over ... we are not done fighting. We are going to continue to fight for those voices, we are going to continue to fight for those Americans who stood up and gave us that air under our wings that allowed us to accomplish things that no political expert would have ever expected,” said Santorum.
Moments after the press conference, a statement from the Romney campaign called Santorum an “able and worthy competitor.”
The former Pennsylvania senator had cancelled some Tuesday morning events only hours before the latest development, but was expected to make up for them later. Hogan Gidley, national communications director for Santorum, on Tuesday morning had issued a statement celebrating Bella’s return from the hospital and thanking supporters for their prayers.
Santorum was heading for a heated delegates battle in five states’ primaries on April 24, including one in his home state of Pennsylvania. Although long in a four-way race with Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul, the strongly pro-life and pro-family Santorum had emerged in recent weeks as the candidate behind which Romney critics within the party had coalesced.
A source within the Santorum campaign said the candidate called his staff at about 1:45 pm EST to say he was ending his presidential bid for personal reasons.
“He missed his scheduled engagements this morning and so we knew something was up,” the source told LifeSiteNews.com.
In an email to supporters, Santorum indicated that his daughter is still suffering from pneumonia, and said the decision to end the run was “one of the hardest decisions Karen and I have ever had to face together.”
“I know that my candidacy has offered you a way to fight for your convictions, and I do not want to let you down,” he told his supporters.
Santorum said he would “focus on helping defeat” Barack Obama in the November contest, but did not allude to whether he would endorse Mitt Romney, now the clear leader of the GOP primary race.
Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, told LifeSiteNews.com that Santorum’s decision “certainly gave the nation a ‘Family comes first’ lesson.”
“Family has always come first for him, and even in his political life, his motives are to build a better nation for his and others’ families,” said Pavone.