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Rick Santorum suspends presidential campaign

Rick Santorum said today he is suspending his presidential campaign, effectively handing the Republican presidential nomination to Mitt Romney.

Santorum did not offer a specific reason for bowing out, but said Easter weekend had been a “time for prayer and thought,’’ as he and his wife, Karen, coped with the hospitalization of their daughter, Bella, who was born with a rare genetic condition called Trisomy 18.

Though he said his campaign was over, he said “we are not done fighting,’’ and that he would turn his attention now to defeating President Obama. He did not mention Romney or any of his other rivals for the nomination in a subdued and somewhat somber 20-minute address.

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“We weren’t out there trashing anybody,’’ Santorum said, surrounded by his family, in his home state of Pennsylvania, at the Gettysburg Hotel in Gettysburg. “We painted a hopeful, positive vision for our country.’’

And, “Against all odds we won 11 states,’’ Santorum said.

The former Pennsylvania senator had been the last formidable challenger to Romney, in a campaign season that has seen that mantle pass from candidate to candidate.

Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich remain in the race but have not competed aggressively in recent weeks and some analysts are suggesting that they are instead looking ahead to speaking roles at the convention in Tampa in August.

With his staunchly conservative views on social issues and blue-collar roots, Santorum had sought to challenge Romney from the right and appeal to voters with a message of economic populism.

But analysts said it would have been almost mathematically impossible for him to collect the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination. Romney has won far more delegates, collected much more money, and has a far more formidable campaign operation.

Republican leaders had also been coalescing around Romney in recent weeks, sending a message that the party was eager to end the divisive primary and begin focusing on Obama.

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Former president George H. W. Bush and his son, Jeb, the former Florida governor, are among those who endorsed Romney in the last month. Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman, also joined the Romney campaign as a senior adviser.

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