Santorum ends White House bid, backs Rubio

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum ended his bid for the White House Wednesday and said he will support Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Santorum announced on Fox News Channel that he had decided, “The best way to do what I set out to do when we announced the run for president … (is) by not furthering our campaign.”

He said Rubio shares his values and “is in a better position to do well in this race.” He described Rubio as a “born leader” and praised his “optimistic” message.

Extended coverage: 2016 Election

Rubio “is the new generation and someone that can bring this country together,” Santorum said, adding that the 44-year-old senator is “taking the wine I’ve been trying to sell and putting it in new wineskins.”

Santorum entered the race in May as a heavy underdog in a crowded Republican field featuring more than a dozen high-profile candidates — many of them newcomers to presidential politics. His longshot status kept him off the mainstage in all of the presidential debates, his campaign never earning the numbers to put him up against heavyweight contenders like billionaire Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Santorum may have exceeded his own expectations by scoring a second-place finish in the race for the Republican presidential nomination four years ago before ultimately losing to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

He ultimately won 11 states in the GOP’s 2012 primary election after an unexpected and narrow victory in the opening contest in Iowa, where he emerged as a conservative favorite after touring the state’s 99 counties in a pickup truck.

But he entered a more powerful and diverse 2016 field, causing his campaign to struggle.

He is among the nation’s most prominent social conservatives, having dedicated much of his political career to opposing same-sex marriage and abortion rights, while advocating for conservative Christian family values.

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