Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum left the U.S. presidential race on Tuesday, effectively conceding the Republican Party presidential nomination to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Santorum emerged from relative obscurity in early January to win the first test of the Republican Party primary season, the Iowa caucuses. He also won contests in several southern states, but never could overcome Mitt Romney’s huge advantage in fundraising and campaign organization.
Surrounded by family members, Rick Santorum told reporters in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania that after much discussion and reflection in recent days, he has decided to end his quest for the Republican Party presidential nomination. “And we made a decision over the weekend that while this presidential race for us is over for me and we will suspend our campaign effective today, we are not done fighting," he said.
The frontrunner for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney, issued a written statement calling Santorum "an able and worthy competitor" and congratulating him on the campaign he ran.
Romney has more than half the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. And Santorum’s decision to end his campaign clears the way for Romney to officially become the likely Republican nominee at the party's national nominating convention in Tampa, Florida in late August.
Santorum won the support of evangelical Christian voters during the primaries and he presented himself as the conservative alternative to Romney.
Santorum did not specifically endorse Romney, but he pledged to work to deny President Obama a second term in office. “We are going to continue to go out there and fight to make sure that we defeat President Barack Obama, that we win the House [of Representatives] back and that we take the United States Senate, and we stand for the values that make us Americans, that make us the greatest country in the world, that shining city on the hill," he said.
Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Representative Ron Paul remain in the Republican race with Romney. But Paul has won few delegates and Gingrich all but conceded on Fox News Sunday that Romney will be the party's nominee. “I think you have to be realistic. Given the size of his organization and given the number of primaries he has won, he is far and away the most likely Republican nominee," he said.
Santorum’s departure from the race will allow Romney to focus most of his attention on a general election campaign against President Obama, where the latest public opinion surveys suggest he has work to do.
The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll shows the president leading Romney by a margin of 51 to 44 percent.
Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown says that Mr. Obama has large advantages among women and Hispanic voters. “The president has large majorities among women voters and is basically breaking even among men. That is the recipe for a Democratic success, if that pattern holds," he said.
But the Post-ABC poll also found lingering concerns about the president’s handling of the domestic economy, and that the economy and jobs remain the top priorities for voters heading into the November election.