April 10, 2012
Despite Pulling Much Evangelical Support, Santorum Jumps Out of Presidential Race
Evangelical leaders and voters rallied behind the candidate, but the former Pennsylvania senator dropped out today.
Rick Santorum announced today that he will no longer seek the Republican nomination for the presidency. The former Pennsylvania senator told campaign supporters in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania that it was time to end his bid for the White House, a departure that all but finalizes Romney as the Republican presidential nominee.
“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,” Santorum said.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, was one of the evangelical leaders who met in January to support Santorum (Land, however, does not endorse candidates). On Sunday, Land said on CBS's “Face the Nation” that Santorum should consider stepping aside.
“As his friend,” Land said, “I would say to him you know, you ought to seriously consider leaving the race now. In eight years he’ll be three years younger than Romney is now.”
Santorum was expected to stay on at least through the Pennsylvania primary, but recent events changed this decision. Politically, Santorum faced a greater threat in his home state than anticipated. A loss in the Keystone State would not only seal his fate as a candidate, it would impinge on his future prospects in politics.
Personally, Santorum faced the challenge of having a child with a serious medical condition. Santorum's daughter, Bella, was hospitalized due to pneumonia, which was potentially life-threatening because Bella suffers from Trisomy 18 (a rare genetic disorder). Bella was released from the hospital Monday evening, and Rick Santorum cancelled campaign events to be with his family.
Four months ago, the Santorum campaign flew so under the radar that Mitt Romney's campaign team did not even bother to conduct opposition research against him.
“This race was as improbable as any race you’ll ever see for president,” Santorum told supporters today.
After Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich each successively rose and fell in the polls, Santorum hit his stride just before the Iowa caucuses, where Santorum's emphasis on pro-life issues resonated with social conservatives.
When Gingrich's campaign surged again in the South Carolina primary, evangelical leaders in the social conservative movement feared that the conservative base of the GOP would splinter. Before the primary, about 150 leaders met to coalesce around Santorum, but Gingrich won.
Santorum's campaign picked up steam when they won in non-binding contests in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado. In Michigan, Santorum nearly landed a lethal blow on frontrunner Mitt Romney, whose father was once governor of Michigan. Santorum kept the pressure on Romney in Ohio (Romney won) and Tennessee (Santorum won).
To win the nomination, however, Santorum needed to begin winning more delegates. His biggest opportunity was in Wisconsin, but Romney's victory there raised serious doubts about Santorum's long-term viability.