Nightly News | April 10, 2012
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: The start of the 2012 general election season might someday be traced right back to today. This afternoon in Gettysburg , Pennsylvania , not far from the very heart of the Civil War battleground, Rick Santorum got out of the GOP race. The battleground that went on longer was more brutal and divisive than anyone had first imagined. He won 11 out of 50 states , but it's another number that was trouble for the former Pennsylvania senator, 1144 , the number of delegates the nominee will need. And it's Mitt Romney who is much closer to that. We begin our coverage tonight with NBC 's Ron Mott on the trail in Gettysburg . Hey, Ron , good evening.
RON MOTT reporting: Hey, Brian , good evening to you. After waving off repeated questions over the past couple of weeks about whether he should get out of this race, today Rick Santorum made it official. Leaving, yet leaving open the possibility he's far from done on the national political stage. In a small hotel meeting room befitting his cash-strapped campaign for president, it's momentum fading. One day after his ailing three-year-old daughter Bella returned home from an Easter weekend spent in a hospital, Rick Santorum bowed out.
Former Senator RICK SANTORUM: While this presidential race for us is over for me, and we will suspend our campaign effective today, we are not done fighting.
MOTT: Santorum pitted his grassroots, every man, bowling alley, blue collar roots against Mitt Romney 's polished upper-crust image with unexpected success.
Sen. SANTORUM: Against all odds we won 11 states, millions of voters, millions of votes. We won more counties than all the other people in this race combined.
MOTT: His exit, with no mention of Romney by name, spares the ex- Pennsylvania senator the prospects of another embarrassing defeat in his home state, having lost his US Senate seat six years ago. Santorum 's support was mostly rooted in a core of Republican strongholds, where his unapologetic push for social conservative values, something the GOP establishment largely sought to avoid, was enthusiastically embraced by evangelicals. But in general election battlegrounds like Ohio , Wisconsin , And Michigan he could not top Governor Romney . It was a campaign filled with highly publicized gaffes.
Sen. SANTORUM: What a snob!
MOTT: From calling President Obama out on education to President Kennedy 's famed speech on the separation of church and state .
Sen. SANTORUM (From "This Week"): You bet that makes you throw up.
MOTT: Just two of a number of comments he eventually walked back or was pushed to explain.
Sen. SANTORUM: You know, we get a little fired up sometimes and can say some things I wish I'd, you know, had a mulligan on.
MOTT: Going forward many Republicans feared the relentless pounding of Romney by Santorum could undermine his chances in the fall with barbs like this.
Sen. SANTORUM: He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.
MOTT: What's next for Rick Santorum , no word just yet. His campaign did today send out an appeal for money, and confirmed that Mitt Romney has asked for a meeting, something Rick Santorum says he's open to. No details, though, Brian , on when that meeting might take place.
WILLIAMS: All right, Ron Mott starting us off from Gettysburg tonight.