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Santorum says the campaign was toughest on his family

 

LANCASTER, Pa. – Hours after announcing he would end his bid for the White House, a relaxed Rick Santorum told supporters here that he is at peace with his decision to exit the presidential race, but his underdog candidacy took a particularly harsh toll on his family.

"It's different than being on the sidelines and seeing the people, the person, you love being hit. It hurts more," Santorum told evangelical leader James Dobson during an hour-long conversation Tuesday night.

"It was a little tougher for Karen and the kids. They did an amazing job as they always have in standing behind me in every sense of the word."

Earlier in the day, the former Pennsylvania senator stood in front of his wife, Karen, and four of his seven children to announce he would suspend his campaign.  The decision came one day after his youngest child, who suffers from Trisomy 18, a rare genetic disorder, was released from the hospital after developing a life-threatening case of pneumonia for the second time this year.

But along with concerns about his 3-year-old daughter's health, other factors were in play when the presidential hopeful decided to call it quits. Continuing could have risked an embarrassing defeat in Pennsylvania, his home state. In addition, a fundraising letter to supporters shortly after the press conference revealed that his frugal campaign was in debt.

Advisers knew the April primaries could pose a problem, but they remained hopeful they could survive through May, with several states holding primaries that looked to favor Santorum. But without money or momentum coming from April, the road to challenging frontrunner Mitt Romney looked bleak.

Speaking with Dobson – a conversation scheduled before Santorum decided to drop out of the race – he said he was proud of his campaign’s accomplishments given that his staff and budget were dwarfed by most of his rivals for the GOP nomination.

His campaign focused on "standing up and speaking up for those who don't have a voice," Santorum told Dobson.

During the conversation he focused on the social issues that came to define his campaign. He spoke of the importance of family, his opposition to late-term abortion and the story of his disabled daughter, Bella and his deceased son, Gabriel.

Asked about what's next, Santorum simply told Dobson: "I’d like to get some sleep."