Santorum Ends Campaign But 'Isn't Done Fighting'

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum suspended his presidential campaign Tuesday. It had lasted longer than anyone expected, but Santorum was well behind front-runner Mitt Romney in the race for delegates.

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The 2012 presidential election ended for Rick Santorum yesterday. In his home state of Pennsylvania, Santorum announced he's suspending a campaign that had surprised opponents and pundits alike. In the end, wins in Iowa and 10 other states were not enough to catch up to frontrunner Mitt Romney in the crucial delegate count. Plus, the likelihood of losing in Pennsylvania to Romney, in Santorum's home state, later this month appears to have been the campaign's tipping point.

NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea has this report on Santorum's final day in the race for the Republican nomination.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Santorum had been off the campaign trail for nearly a week. His youngest daughter, three-year-old Bella, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder, had been hospitalized with pneumonia over the Easter weekend.

Speaking yesterday to reporters at a hotel not far from the Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg, he said his daughter's illness gave him both a pause and cause to think.

RICK SANTORUM: 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.

GONYEA: Santorum was joined by his wife, Karen, and his four oldest children, all of whom teared up as he spoke. But the candidate himself remained composed.

SANTORUM: He did not address specific reasons behind his decision. He did not mention Mitt Romney or the big lead Romney has in delegate commitments. Or the polls that have Romney well ahead nationally and a fair bet to capture Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania in two weeks.

GONYEA: The Gettysburg event was more of a personal farewell and a vow to return. But it wasn't the final event of this long campaign. Last night Santorum was at Lancaster Bible College, where he was interviewed on stage by Dr. James Dobson, the Christian radio broadcaster and founder of the evangelical group Focus on the Family.

DR. JAMES DOBSON: You have to be emotionally drained. Are you OK? And is it alright that you're here?

SANTORUM: Oh, I'm delighted to be here.

GONYEA: Over 45 minutes, the two men relived the campaign, starting last year when Santorum scarcely registered in polls and went largely unnoticed, when nine GOP candidates were on stage for TV debates. Dobson offered strong praise for the campaign's central theme.

DOBSON: And you talked about the sanctity of human life. And you talked about the values that we believe in, that I believe. You had the courage - the only one that had the courage to talk about those things that really do matter. And everything else is...

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: Santorum relished the opportunity to reprise his role as the conservative in the race, with a history of speaking up on key issues such as abortion and gay marriage over his entire career.

SANTORUM: While they understand the link between stable families and a strong economy, politicians hesitate to point it up because then it begs the question, well, what are you going to do about it?

GONYEA: That prompted Dobson to jump in.

DOBSON: Why are they so afraid of that?

SANTORUM: Well, you have to ask them. I mean I'm not. So...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GONYEA: Again, last night at Lancaster, Romney went unmentioned. The only comment on the frontrunner came from top Santorum advisor John Brabender in Gettysburg, who offered this to a group of reporters.

JOHN BRABENDER: I can confirm that he did speak with Governor Romney. And Governor Romney has requested that they meet sometime in the near future. So, thank you.

GONYEA: Back in Lancaster last night, the crowd often interrupted the onstage conversation with applause. Rather than disappointment, there was a glow even in the aftermath of Santorum's candidacy.

Here's 74-year-old Nelson Ressler.

NELSON RESSLER: Yeah, I think it was good in a way. I think it was time now that he stepped to the side. But I think it was good that he got his views out (unintelligible) what he believed in.

GONYEA: Ressler and others there said that in the months ahead they want Santorum to continue to speak out on conservative social issues. Last night's post-campaign event is a clear sign that he's ready to oblige.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

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