Print Article | Email Article | Write To Us

Daily News

Rick Santorum Bows Out of GOP Race for President (2921)

The Catholic former senator from Pennsylvania cites health of daughter, among other concerns, but Romney’s dominance is a major factor.

04/10/2012 Comments (16)

Surrounded by members of his family, Republican presidential candidate former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum announces he will be suspending his campaign during a press conference April 10 at the Gettysburg Hotel in Pennsylvania.

– Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Rick Santorum announced April 10 that he was bowing out of the GOP presidential race.

In an emotional, unscripted statement that acknowledged his concerns about the physical health of his young daughter, Bella, and the moral, economic and political health of the nation, Santorum signaled that he had come to terms with his fading chance of capturing the GOP nomination.

The Catholic former Pennsylvania senator acknowledged that “Good Friday was a little bit of a passion play for us with our daughter Bella, who unfortunately is getting very sick. We ended up in the hospital all weekend.... She is a fighter; she is doing exceptionally well and is back with us in the family.”

Recent hospital visits for Bella's sake, combined with his campaign’s financial struggles and his failure to secure the necessary delegates, led him to take the difficult step of suspending his campaign.

“It did cause us to think. … This was a time for prayer and thought over this past weekend, just like it was when we decided to get into this race,” he noted.

About a year ago, he said, he and his wife, Karen, and their children sat at their kitchen table, considering whether their children could look forward to a bright future. At that time the couple concluded that he should throw his hat into the race, and the entire Santorum family has played a visible role in his campaign. They stood with him today as he made his announcement, near Gettysburg, Pa.

“We started almost a year ago in Somerset, Pa., and I told the story of my family, my grandfather, who came to this country and worked in the coal mines,” Santorum recalled during today’s press conference. “After a while, it became less about my stories, and what kept us going were your stories.”

“Our campaign was about what makes us Americans,” he said. “Against all odds, we won 11 states. … We were able to spread that message far and wide across this country. We found this support, and I found a deeper love for this country. It was a love affair for me, going from state to state,” meeting people “who care deeply about where this country is going ... and want to do something.”

He told stories of volunteers who “believed we provided the best opportunity to turn this country around” and of families who worried about loved ones with disabilities, and he concluded that he would fight for the voiceless.

 

‘Important Voice’

The news saddened supporters who had been energized by Santorum’s passionate advocacy of pro-life issues, religious freedom and traditional marriage — as well as those who shared his concerns about securing the country’s national-security interests.

In recent weeks, many of the candidate’s supporters were heartened by his determination to remain in the race, even when his main rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, was poised to secure the necessary delegates for the Republican presidential nomination.

Newt Gingrich, the trailing GOP presidential hopeful, said today that he would remain in the race. In a statement, he also commended his onetime political rival.

Santorum’s “success is a testament to his tenacity and the power of conservative principles," said Gingrich, the former House speaker who was blamed by many of Santorum’s supporters for splitting the social-conservative vote and thus increasing Romney’s political lead.

Romney responded to the news with an expression of respect for Santorum as “an able and worthy competitor. … 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.”

With little time to spare, Romney has reportedly invited Santorum to endorse his candidacy, and Santorum’s aides say he is reviewing that possibility.

Both Gingrich and Romney asked Santorum’s supporters to get on board with their campaigns.

“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,” said Gingrich in a statement released after Santorum’s announcement.

“We know well that only a conservative can protect life, defend the Constitution, restore jobs and growth and return to a balanced budget,” read Gingrich’s statement.

However, most political commentators predict that Romney will likely pull in most of Santorum’s supporters, as the GOP prepares for its convention in Tampa this August and unites behind one candidate.

Yet, if today’s announcement did not generate much surprise, it did prompt expressions of respect for Santorum’s hard-charging effort to garner attention in the early GOP debates and primaries.

Initially, most party insiders and political commentators dismissed Santorum’s decision to challenge Romney, but after mounting an unexpectedly strong challenge to the front-runner, Santorum became a force to be reckoned with, despite his limited funds and staffing.

“Rick Santorum’s departure from the Republican presidential race is hardly a surprise,” noted National Review’s Robert Costa in an April 10 post. “What’s surprising is that he was even here, in late April, contending for the nomination.”

“After a disastrous 2006 re-election campaign, Santorum largely faded from the national scene,” Costa reported. “He became a Fox News pundit, a Beltway consultant, and a low-profile speaker-for-hire. When he announced his quixotic bid last year, no one, outside of a few conservative blogs, paid attention.”

“Eventually, in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, Santorum began to catch fire as Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman and Michele Bachmann fizzled. Quite suddenly, his sweater vest, the Dodge pickup he drove around the state, and his long-winded, peppy town-hall meetings became symbols of an insurgency. The crowds swelled, as did his poll numbers,” Costa wrote.

 

'Power of the Pro-Life Vote'

The GOP party leadership feared that Santorum’s stubborn refusal to suspend his presidential bid would delay their effort to unify the party around a single candidate who would take on the incumbent president.

On April 1, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate minority leader, confirmed on CNN’s State of the Union that Romney’s “chances are overwhelming that he will be our nominee. It seems, to me, we’re in the final phases of wrapping up this nomination. And most of the members of the Senate Republican conference are either supporting him, or they have the view that I do: that it’s time to turn our attention to the fall campaign and begin to make the case against the president of the United States.”

Santorum’s decision to close his campaign will advance that urgent goal. But his absence on the campaign trail will be sorely missed by his supporters, and even, perhaps, by his detractors, who have delighted in his occasionally incendiary remarks.

Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, a political-action group that raises funds for pro-life candidates and had endorsed Santorum’s presidential bid, greeted today’s news with a mixture of regret and hope.

“If there was ever a doubt about the intensity and power of the pro-life vote, Rick put that to rest. My concern is that pro-life supporters not go back into the closet and that they stay energized and motivated. That is our No. 1 job this year,” Dannenfelser told the Register.

Dannenfelser recalled a number of campaign stops she visited with Santorum. In each case, the strong response he elicited underscored his powerful role as a culture warrior — a strength that many GOP leaders and commentators viewed as a liability in a presidential contest that could be decided by independent voters.

“I remember when we arrived for a debate, and there were all kind of signs supporting him, while others attacked him, saying: Stop the war on women,” Dannenfelser said. “If there was no real contrast, you wouldn’t have those people out there. He invites conversations about things that people don’t feel like talking about: religious liberty, abortion and marriage."

She noted that she had just spoken with Santorum and that he planned to keep pro-life concerns front and center throughout the election year and beyond.

Asked if Santorum discussed his future plans with her, Dannenfelser said he only spoke in general terms and did not specify his next steps beyond the campaign season.

“In terms of what else he does, I don’t think he knows. But, before the campaign, he was engaged with projects at the heart of the culture and the family, and that will continue,” she suggested.

More immediately, Santorum has already pledged to throw his weight behind the GOP’s battle for the White House.

Today he vowed to work to “defeat Obama,” win back Congress, and make the nation again “that shining city on the hill, a beacon for freedom everywhere.”

Joan Frawley Desmond is the Register’s senior editor.

Filed under