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Santorum Drops Out; Romney Campaign Credits Illinois With Helping Seal The Deal

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Surrounded by members of his family, Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum announces he will be suspending his campaign during a press conference at the Gettysburg Hotel on April 10, 2012 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Santorum's three-year-old daughter, Bella, became ill over the Easter holiday and poll numbers showed he was losing to Mitt Romney in his home state of Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Surrounded by members of his family, Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum announces he will be suspending his campaign during a press conference at the Gettysburg Hotel on April 10, 2012 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Santorum’s three-year-old daughter, Bella, became ill over the Easter holiday and poll numbers showed he was losing to Mitt Romney in his home state of Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

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(CBS) – Rick Santorum dropped out of the Republican race for president on Tuesday, clearing the way for a showdown between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney in November.

“While this presidential race for us is over, for me, and we will suspend our campaign today, we are not done fighting,” Santorum said from his home state of Pennsylvania on Tuesday.

As CBS 2’s Brad Edwards reports, that might just be a little hyperbole, a little semantics. The fact is, Santorum is out of the GOP race, and the fight card is all but officially set for November: Obama vs. Romney.

Full Coverage Of Santorum’s Announcement

Santorum cited family reasons for his decision to step down, noting his severely ill 3-year-old daughter spent the weekend in the hospital.

“We had a difficult weekend,” Santorum said. “Good Friday was a little bit of a … passion play for us, with our daughter Bella, who is the joy of our lives, getting unfortunately very sick. We ended up in the hospital all weekend.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports

But Santorum’s support in Pennsylvania was slipping, two weeks ahead of that state’s primary, and he faced the prospect of defeat in his own state.

Santorum did not mention Romney by name in his announcement, and did not endorse his former rival in his speech.

The Romney campaign responded by calling Santorum a “worthy competitor.”

As WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports, the head of Romney’s campaign in Illinois credited this state as having a big influence in Santorum’s decision to end his bid for the GOP nomination.

Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford said he believes Romney’s win in Illinois helped move him into an insurmountable lead in the bid for the Republican nomination and a matchup against President Obama this fall.

“It became pretty obvious after the last few weeks – and I think Illinois was a part of the pivotal turn – that it was pretty obvious that the momentum and the number of delegates was going to Mitt Romney,” Rutherford said. “I respect the fact it had to be a tough decision for Senator Santorum to suspend his campaign, but I see now Mitt having the opportunity to go ahead and become the Republican nominee out of the Tampa, Florida, convention.”

He also said he hopes Santorum throws his support behind Romney, just as Romney did in 2008 when he dropped out of the Republican race and supported frontrunner John McCain.

“It’s time to unite who is obviously the leader, the one that’s going to be having the most number of delegates, and to look to be able to defeat Barack Obama, and to change the White House,” he said.

Rutherford said, with his leading rival out of the campaign, they can look to the Republican National Convention in Tampa this summer with confidence that Romney will get the nomination.

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