Metropolitik: Rick Santorum chose the easy way out

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Well, that’s over. In the end, Rick Santorum, who ended his long-shot campaign Tuesday at a surprise press conference in Gettysburg, Pa. chose the easy way out.

“We made a decision over the weekend,” Santorum said, “that while this presidential race for us is over, for me, and we will suspend our campaign today, we are not done fighting.” He pointedly failed to mention his nearest rival, the more-inevitable-than-ever Mitt Romney.

Santorum also wasn’t clear on the reasons for his campaign suspension, though he did mention his ill daughter, Bella, who was  released from the hospital on Monday after a weekend in which the candidate had canceled campaign events to tend to her.

Cynical poll watchers will  point to depressing numbers for the upcoming April 24 primary in Pennsylvania — the state Santorum represented in Congress until 2006 — as a simple reason for his departure. A loss in his “home state” would have dealt the Santorum brand an embarrassing blow, especially after the 18-point  defeat he suffered just six years ago, the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent senator for some 30 years. As it stands, the surprisingly successful campaign gives the candidate the chance of another presidential run in 2016.

The Romney campaign had already committed to throwing $2.9 million into the Pennsylvania race and ending Santorum once and for all. Adding insult, the ad assault was going to aim squarely at his Senate loss. “We fired him as senator, why promote him to president?” one ad asked.

Of course, there remain three total candidates in the Republican race: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has vowed to stay in all the way to the convention, and Rep. Ron Paul has yet to repudiate his mysterious caucus strategy. Then there’s Romney, still as ever the likely nominee.

There are some (see:?us) who say the conservative crusader never stood a real chance at the highest office in the nation. But for all of Santorum’s detractors (see again:?us) it’s impossible to deny the campaign’s successes. What began  as a shoestring effort launched out of a borrowed pickup truck emerged as a real candidacy capable of moving the issues rightward. And though he’s officially out, his impact persists. As Romney pivots back toward the center, the specter of Santorum will remain.

Follow Brayden Simms on Twitter @metropolitik

Related:

Rick Santorum suspends his presidential campaign


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