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How Rick Santorum wins by dropping out of presidential race

Rick Santorum effectively ended his campaign Tuesday, but he has gained much after doing better than pundits expected, setting himself up for a run in 2016 or 2020.

By Staff writer / April 10, 2012

Surrounded by his family, Rick Santorum announces in Gettysburg, Pa., he is suspending his candidacy for the presidency effective Tuesday.

Gene J. Puskar/AP

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WASHINGTON

The announcement Tuesday by Rick Santorum that he is suspending his presidential campaign comes as little surprise.

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The former Pennsylvania senator was too far behind in the delegate count to lock in the nomination before the Republican convention in August, and the prospect of a contested convention had effectively vanished.

Mr. Santorum’s final hope – to win the Pennsylvania primary on April 24, giving his campaign new life – was also teetering on the edge. The latest polls showed likely nominee Mitt Romney within just a few percentage points of beating the native son, Santorum.

Now, Santorum comes out of the nomination race with a victory, of sorts. He entered the race nearly a year ago as a long-shot prospect, against many better-known personalities, and survived longer than just about anyone else in the race on a shoestring budget. Newt Gingrich effectively conceded on Sunday that Mr. Romney will be the nominee. Ron Paul, the other active candidate, is still promoting his iconoclastic brand of libertarian Republicanism, with no shot at the nomination, analysts say.

But after a weekend dominated by his disabled young daughter’s hospitalization and reports that Santorum was considering ending his bid, he emerged Tuesday ready to announce his next phase of public life.

“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 in Gettysburg, Pa., his family at his side. “We are going to continue to fight for those voices, we are going to continue to fight for the Americans who stood up and gave us that air under our wings that allowed us to accomplish things that no political expert would have ever expected.”

Republican analysts applauded Santorum for exiting the race now, allowing Romney to put the nasty nomination race behind him, rebuild his image, and set his sights on defeating President Obama in November.

“Nobody ever thought Rick Santorum would get this far; he deserves our respect,” says Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist. “Yes, he hurt Romney’s favorables, but he made Romney a better candidate.”

Former House Speaker Gingrich taught Romney how to debate, and Santorum taught Romney how to think of more than just independents and establishment Republicans, Mr. O’Connell says.

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