'It's over for me': Rick Santorum pulls out of Republican race to give Romney clear run

Daughter's health cited as decisive factor as party focuses on battle to oust Obama from White House

Washington

Rick Santorum, 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 serioius 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 the 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 at the weekend. "It caused us to think, about the role we have as parents," Mr Santorum said, referring to his wife Karen who stood beside him yesterday. Significantly however he did not mention Mr Romney by name in his 12-minute speech, let alone endorse him – 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 exclusively 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," and "an important voice in our party", he said.

For Mr Santorum too the decision makes eminent sense. Athough he won 11 primaries and caucuses, he had no realistic chance of amassing the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination at August's Republican convention in Tampa, Florida. By contrast, Mr Romney already has more than 650, more than all his opponents combined.

In recent days even Mr Santorum's Christian conservative base had shown signs of swinging behind Mr Romney, in the interests of the greater goal of recapturing the White House. For months, polls have shown that despite (or perhaps because of) his suspect conservative credentials, Mr Romney has the best chance of defeating Mr Obama in the general election, when independents and moderates will have a crucial say.

By quitting now moreover, Mr Santorum comes across as a good party man, thus preserving his longer term ambitions. Still only 53, he is young in political terms, and in his speech yesterday he left no doubt he will not be retiring into private life anytime soon.

Coming from nowhere a year ago, he achieved startling success. From a meagre financial base, he staged a late surge to win January's caucuses in Iowa that kicked off the nominating season. He followed up with wins in the mid-west and several southern states. Had Newt Gingrich not remained in the race, thus splitting the conservative vote, Mr Santorum might well have won key primaries in Michigan and Ohio. Had he done so, Mr Romney himself might have been knocked out of contention.

As it is Mr Santorum could be well positioned for a presidential run in 2016 (if Mr Romney loses this November) or in 2020, given the Republicans' habit of awarding their nomination to the second-placed finisher the last time around. If the two can overcome their personal animosity, he could be a tempting 2012 vice-presidential nominee, who would shore up Mr Romney among social conservatives.

Pressure now will be intense on Mr Gingrich – whose support has dipped into single digits in the most recent primaries – to follow Mr Santorum's example and pull out. If he does, the last contender standing would be the quirky libertarian Ron Paul, who by his own admission has not the remotest chance of actually winning the nomination.

Instead yesterday marked the effective end of an extraordinary primary season, in which Mr Romney was the favourite throughout, but who never convinced. One rival after another – Michele Bachmann, then Rick Perry, then Herman Cain, then Newt Gingrich, and finally Mr Santorum – briefly overtook him, only to either self-destruct or be overwhelmed by Mr Romney's superior organisation and resources.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

SAP BW BO

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW BO - 6 MONTHS - LONDON London (Gr...

HSE Manger - Solar

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried