The latest and perhaps most formidable non-Romney candidate amongst the GOP Presidential crop looks to be moving on.
Rick Santorum suspended his presidential campaign on Tuesday, bowing to the inevitability of Mitt Romney’s nomination and ending his improbable, come-from-behind quest to become the party’s conservative standard-bearer in the fall.
“We made a decision over the weekend, that while this presidential race for us is over, for me, and we will suspend our campaign today, we are not done fighting,” Mr. Santorum said.
Mr. Santorum made the announcement at a stop in his home state of Pennsylvania after a weekend in which he tended to his 3-year-old daughter, Bella, who had been hospitalized with pneumonia.
Mr. Santorum, who was holding back tears, did not exactly specify why he was ending his presidential bid. He referred to his daughter’s illness, but said she was making great progress and was back home after being hospitalized over the weekend.
Mr. Santorum called Mr. Romney earlier in the day to tell him of his plans to suspend his campaign. Mr. Santorum told Mr. Romney that he is committed to defeating President Obama, but that he is not going to endorse immediately, said a source familiar with the call.
Look, I never felt Santorum was a serious candidate, in terms of being able to oust the incumbent President. Sure, he made some serious headway in the GOP nomination process as an alternative to Romney, something that came as quite a surprise to many. But in the end, this campaign cycle will be based upon which GOP candidate can adequately revive the economy in addition to having the best chance to defeat Barack Obama. It would have been rather difficult for people to place faith in a candidate like Santorum who lost his last election by 18 percent while running as an incumbent US Senator in 2006.
But what may have been the final nail in the proverbial coffin was Santorum's insinuation that voters may as well stick with President Obama if Romney becomes the Republican nominee. Sure, Santorum made an attempt to walk back his comments a couple of days later, but it appeared to be too little too late. Nearly two weeks after those comments, Romney swept the three primary races in Wisconsin, Virginia and Washington, DC. Combine that with the fact that Romney is within two points of the lead in Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania (primary to take place April 24) in addition to receiving key endorsements from conservative stalwarts Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, it's apparent that the GOP electorate and politicians alike want to shift the focus to Obama.
In my mind, Santorum provided a valuable service in his pushing Romney in so many primaries and caucuses. The fact the Romney has been battle-tested, as opposed to this process being a glorified coronation, will serve him well the remainder of this campaign cycle.
Yes, the real battle is only beginning.