Relief for Romney as Santorum finally bows out

 

Rick Santorum, the standard bearer of the social conservatives, yesterday effectively pulled out of the Republican presidential race, making certain what has long been obvious: that Mitt Romney will be the party's nominee to face Barack Obama in November.

At a hastily convened press conference in Gettysburg, the former Pennsylvania senator who has emerged as Mr Romney's last serious rival, announced that he was suspending his campaign. "It's over for me," Mr Santorum declared, but he vowed to keep up his fight for conservative principles.

Though the timing of yesterday's announcement came as a surprise, its thrust was not. A string of primary victories by the better organised, better financed Mr Romney, and the prospect of several more in a fortnight's time – including what could be an embarrassing defeat inflicted on Mr Santorum in his home state – has banished all doubt about the outcome of the battle.

But the immediate reason may well have been a family one, the condition of the Santorums' three-year-old daughter Bella, who suffers from the rare genetic disorder Trisomy 18 and was back in hospital again at the weekend. "It caused us to think, about the role we have as parents," Mr Santorum said, referring to his wife Karen. Significantly, he did not mention Mr Romney by name yesterday, a sign of the long visible tensions between the two men.

The news nonetheless was a huge relief for the Romney campaign and for the Republican establishment that has rallied behind him. The former Massachusetts governor will now be free to focus his energy and resources on what will be an uphill struggle to unseat Mr Obama. Last night Mr Romney heaped praise in on his vanquished opponent: Mr Santorum had been an "able and worthy competitor".

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