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Former Sen. Rick Santorum as he announced the end of his White House bid. His wife, Karen, is in the background.
Rick Santorum, who pitched himself as the true conservative in the race and used a platform focused on social issues to come from well back in the pack to be the main challenger to Mitt Romney, announced this afternoon that he is suspending his effort for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
His decision means Romney - already well ahead of his rivals and unlikely to be derailed - is virtually assured to be the GOP nominee who will face President Obama in November.
Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, told a gathering of reporters in Gettysburg that his three-year-old daughter's battle with a genetic disease, and her hospitalization over the weekend, "did cause us to think ... about the role we have as parents." And he concluded it was time to step aside from the campaign trail, where his campaign no longer appeared to have time left to stop Romney from being the nominee.
Santorum said the campaign has been "miracle after miracle. This race was as improbable as any race you'll ever see for president."
But "this presidential race is over for me," he added at 2:37 p.m. ET. Santorum took no questions from reporters.
Update at 3:07 p.m. ET. Video:
Courtesy of the PBS NewsHour, video of Santorum's statement is here.
Update at 3:02 p.m. ET. Paul And Gingrich Respond:
Both former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, are out with statements claiming the "conservative" mantle.
The two are far behind Romney in the race for delegates.
Gingrich saysthat he is "committed to staying in this race all the way to Tampa so that the conservative movement has a real choice."
Paul says in statement from his campaign that he is "now the last - and real - conservative alternative to Mitt Romney."
Update at 2:46 p.m. ET. Romney Salutes An "Able And Worthy Competitor."
In a statement just released by his campaign, Romney says:
"Senator Santorum is 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."
Still officially in the GOP race, along with Romney: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.
Update at 2:42 p.m. ET. No Mention Of Romney:
Santorum did not speak about Romney, other GOP contenders or President Obama. NPR.s Don Gonyea reports, though, that Santorum adviser John Brabender says the former senator has spoken to Romney and that they two will talk again "at some time in the near future."
Our original post, from 2:05 p.m. ET:
Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum is supposed to speak with reporters in Gettysburg, Pa., within the next few minutes as reports circulate that he will suspend his bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
The Washington Post, ABC News, NBC News and CNN are saying he will put his campaign on hold - often a not-so-veiled way of stepping out.
According to Politico, "Santorum's staffers won't say whether he will remain in the race, as he prepares for his first event since leaving the trail for the Easter holiday and to spend time with his hospitalized daughter."
Three-year-old Bella "suffers from a rare genetic condition called Trisomy 18," as The Associated Press reports.
In recent weeks, of course, Santorum has been the main challenger to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's bid for the nomination. He has won 11 events, but is well behind Romney in the race for delegates to the GOP nominating convention.