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See Ya Around: Rick Santorum Drops Out of GOP Race

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Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum abruptly dropped out of the race this afternoon, citing the health of his infant daughter, Bella, in a move that allows former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to clinch the GOP nomination and target President Obama.

“We made the decision over the weekend … this presidential race is over for me. We will suspend our campaign today,” said Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, appearing with his wife and family in a hastily called press conference in Gettysburg, Pa. His 3-year-old daughter Bella, who has a rare genetic condition called Trisomy 18, was hospitalized this weekend after she had come down with pneumonia.

“We were very concerned about our role being the best parents we possibly could to our children,” said Santorum.

Bella was released from the hospital yesterday and her condition is improving, but the incident played a part in Santorum’s decision, he said.

“Good Friday was a bit of a passion play for us, with Bella,” he said.

Santorum also faced an uphill battle in his home state, which he had said was a must-win for his campaign.

Wisconsin state Rep. Andre Jaque said Santorum’s race was “an uphill battle,” while Wisconsin State Sen. Glenn Grothman said he’s sad to see his strong conservative voice leave the race.

“He’s a very selfless man and I can understand why he is dropping out,” said Grothmann. Santorum lost in Wisconsin last week, one of three primaries where Santorum was defeated before dropping out. “He was such a strong candidate I hope he continues to push his conservative agenda in some other capacity.”

Romney’s campaign quickly sent out a statement calling Santorum, “an able and worthy competitor, and I congratulate him on the campaign he ran. He has proven himself to be an important voice in our party and in the nation. We both recognize that what is most important is putting the failures of the last three years behind us and setting America back on the path to prosperity.”

Santorum vowed that despite the race being “over for me,” he said he’s “not done fighting.”

“This was as improbable as any race for president,” Santorum said and he called his 309-day campaign a “wonderful story after story of people coming forward.”

Fran Wendelboe, a New Hampshire Republican consultant, said Romney is now free to focus on Obama.

“The nomination is over now, we can move forward into general election mode,” she said.

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