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Online, fans and foes applaud Rick Santorum's withdrawal from presidential race

Early reaction among supporters and opponents alike approved of Rick Santorum's withdrawal from the Republican presidential race Tuesday, according to's computer-assisted analysis of online reaction.

Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania whose strong showing among conservatives in primaries and caucuses surprised many observers, suspended his campaign Tuesday amid concerns for the health of his daughter Bella, who was hospitalized for complications from the chromosomal disorder Trisomy 18.

Santorum suspends presidential campaign

Reaction was swift on social media and political forums. Most of the online discussion simply passed along the news or tried to dispassionately assess the effect on the campaign, according to's analysis of more than 14,500 posts on Twitter, Facebook and forums Tuesday afternoon and evening.

Among those commenters, the consensus was that Santorum's decision cleared the way for the nomination of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, as summarized by James Kust, a sportswriter in Eau Claire, Wis.:

But about 20 percent did express clear opinions about Santorum's decision, with those welcoming the news outpacing those expressing disappointment by a 9-to-1 ratio through early Tuesday evening. While many people applauded Santorum for putting his family first, others rejoiced that he was leaving the race.

(The analysis uses a tool called ForSight, a natural-language data platform developed by Crimson Hexagon Inc., which is used by many media and research organizations, including the Pew Research Center and ESPN, to gauge public opinion in new media.)

For supporters of Santorum, who ran a strongly conservative campaign opposing same-sex marriage and abortion, the announcement reinforced what attracted them to him in the first place.

One of those was Kelly Clinger of Atlanta, a spokeswoman for the anti-abortion-rights group Silent No More Awareness Campaign:

Others who may not have supported Santorum still sent him good wishes for his daughter, like Eric Johnson, a student at Kennesaw State University in Georgia:

But as you would expect for a candidate whose clear-cut positions drew sharp divisions among voters, much of the reaction was political, and most of that was anti-Santorum, including this tweet from Davis Allen, a student at Arizona State University:

On the political discussion group PeoplesPoliticsIII, a frequent commenter using the name Noserose criticized Santorum for his public expressions of faith:

A similar sentiment came from Waymon Hudson, a freelance writer from Chicago, who said on Facebook:

And for some, Santorum's withdrawal makes the campaign "much less amusing now," as Wes Platt, an online game writer and designer from Durham, N.C., tweeted.

That reaction was summarized by Elliott Lerner, a student at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., who moonlights occasionally as a standup comic:

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