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Ron Paul Can Capitalize as Rick Santorum Leaves Republican Race

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Rick Santorum has suspended his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, according to two people with knowledge of his plans.

Live updates below:

4:30 PM What's Next For Santorum? 

According to Nate Silver of the New York Times, Santorum could have some options in the near- and long-term, ranging from joining the Romney campaign to seeking local public office.

"Santorum might have some appeal to Romney as a vice presidential candidate, since he’s reasonably well vetted and comes from a swing state, Pennsylvania. But Santorum now has poor favorability ratings with the general public, with an average of 33% of voters viewing him favorably and 45% unfavorably in surveys conducted since March. As Romney also has such problems with his favorability ratings, he might be more inclined to pick a fresher face.

If Romney loses to Obama, then Santorum will be mentioned as a front-runner for the 2016 nomination. Santorum was always playing catch-up in this year’s campaign, having raised little money early on. With more cash, a deeper and more experienced staff, and more support from Republican Party officials, he could have more staying power. He’ll also have more experience under his belt."

Thoughts on a media gig for Santorum?

4:00 PM BTW Ron Paul is still very much in the race chugging along in his own resolute way, campaigning in his home state and running a new ad that ridicules his competition:

3:40 PM The Christian Science Moniter argues that, with Rick Santorum's exit Tuesday, the GOP race is down to three, and Ron Paul becomes Mitt Romney's biggest threat. Paul can't win, but he could stop Romney from beating Obama.

3:18 PM I thought Newt Would Quit Next? Newt on Huckabee Radio Show says now finally have a conservative vs. a moderate: “we spent the whole year hoping to get to one on one”

3:10 PM This is a joke (not really, this is all real, of course) Gingrich pledges to stay in GOP race until convention to give conservatives "a real choice."

3:05 PM Newt, like the winner he is, says: "I humbly ask Sen. Santorum’s supporters to visit Newt.org to review my conservative record & join us...to Tampa"

2:55 PM Mitt Romney congratulates Rick Santorum on his campaign, calls him an "able and worthy" competitor.

2:50 PM In his Gettysburg speech, Santorum made no mention of Romney, and stressed that he'd gone farther than anyone expected, competing "against all odds."

2:30 PM Santorum will make the announcement at a press conference in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania shortly, a senior member of his campaign staff told CBS News.

“Suspending” a campaign — though it is a relatively lukewarm term — is by every political definition calling it quits. Herman Cain and Texas Governor Rick Perry both “suspended” their campaigns … and have never been heard from again in the GOP race.

Santorum’s end clears the way for Mitt Romney to be the eventual Republican nominee.

Newt Gingrich and libertarian Texas congressman Ron Paul are the only other remaining candidates, though, let’s be honest, they’re hardly a threat for Romney.

Santorum’s announcement in his home state of Pennsylvania comes after an Easter weekend in which he tended to his 3-year-old daughter, Bella, who had been hospitalized with pneumonia.

The decision abruptly ends his surprising surge for the Republican presidential nomination after weeks in which he has struggled to compete with Mitt Romney’s well-financed, highly-organized campaign apparatus.

Santorum really finally began gaining traction in Iowa shortly before the January 3 caucuses, when social conservatives eager for an “anti-Romney” candidate to call their own started to coalesce around him. Santorum effectively tied Romney in Iowa before going on to win another 10 states and claim the mantle of conservative alternative to the frontrunner.

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