2012 ELECTION

Rick Santorum suspending presidential campaign

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GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) - Bowing to the inevitable, Rick Santorum quit the presidential campaign Tuesday, clearing the way for Mitt Romney to claim the Republican nomination.

Santorum, appearing with his wife and family in his home state of Pennsylvania, told supporters the race for him was over, but the fight to defeat President Barack Obama would go on.

Santorum made no mention of Romney, and stressed that he'd gone farther than anyone expected, competing "against all odds." The delegate totals told the tale of Santorum's demise.

"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," he said.

 The former Pennsylvania senator stressed that he'd taken his presidential bid farther than anyone expected, calling his campaign "as improbable as any race that you will ever see for president."

"Against all odds," he said, "we won 11 states, millions of voters, millions of votes." Santorum signaled his intention of maintaining a voice in the campaign to come, saying: "This game is a long, long, long way from over. We will continue to go out and fight and defeat President Barack Obama."

Romney has more than twice as many delegates as Santorum and is on pace to reach the number needed to clinch the nomination - 1,144 - by early June.

Still in the race, but not considered a factor: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

Santorum had been hoping to hold out through the primary in Pennsylvania on April 24, but decided to fold up after his severely ill 3-year-old daughter, Bella, spent the weekend in the hospital.

Santorum, a feisty campaigner who took everyone by surprise with his win in Iowa's leadoff caucuses, ran on his conservative credentials and his experience in Congress - he was a House member for four years and senator for 12 - but was hobbled by a lack of money and organization.

Santorum stressed the improbable accomplishment of the past year, saying that "against all odds, we won 11 states, millions of voters, millions of votes."

He said that while Romney was accumulating more delegates, "we were winning in a very different way. We were touching hearts" with his conservative message.

In a statement, Romney called Santorum "an able and worthy competitor" and congratulated him on his campaign.

"He has proven himself to be an important voice in our party and in the nation," Romney said. "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."

Suspending the campaign allows Santorum to keep paying off nearly $1 million in debt, according to recent Federal Election Commission filings.

Those debts include about $500,000 for media consulting and tens of thousands more for telemarking and online advertising, records show. Other presidential candidates have eventually extinguished their debt and terminated their campaigns.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tom Pawlenty officially shuttered his campaign committee on Tuesday, owing as much as a half a million dollars last fall but slowly whittling that figure down.

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