The Big Conversation:
Rick Santorum's departure has officially dashed any hopes of a competitive Texas primary, but the ramifications of his exit don't end at the top of the ballot.
Santorum abruptly dropped out of the presidential race on Tuesday, ending a candidacy that had emerged for a time as the most viable conservative alternative to that of front-runner Mitt Romney, who had amassed a delegate lead that many had deemed insurmountable.
The former Pennsylvania senator's exit effectively ends the Republican nominating process, though in his speech Santorum stopped short of endorsing Romney. "While this presidential race for us is over, for me, and we will suspend our campaign today, we are not done fighting," Santorum said.
Santorum's exit delivered a blow to Texans hoping for a hot race on May 29, when primary voters go to the polls. Texas, which will award 155 delegates, was considered fertile ground for Santorum, an evangelical who would have likely fared better than Romney at wooing Texas' conservative Republican electorate.
A group of Santorum supporters even recently launched an effort to make the Texas primary a winner-take-all delegate contest. But ABC News reported that the campaign saw the chances of a rule change as slim. Still, as the Tribune's Jay Root reported Tuesday, one Texas Santorum supporter said he'd continue to push for the rule change "because it will help for future years."
Santorum's departure from the race may also impact races lower on the Texas ballot. As The Dallas Morning News notes, with Romney all but guaranteed the nomination, fewer Texans will likely appear at the polls, possibly benefiting candidates with passionate bases of support, like U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz, who has mounted one of the strongest challenges to front-runner David Dewhurst. On the other hand, Cruz, who has won the support of Tea Party groups like FreedomWorks, would likely have benefited from the influx of voters supporting Santorum.
- Rick Santorum's decision to suspend his campaign has effectively handed the Republican nomination to Mitt Romney, but Ron Paul on Tuesday vowed to stay in the race. "Dr. Paul is now the last — and real — conservative alternative to Mitt Romney," Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton said of Santorum's exit. "We plan to continue running hard, secure delegates and press the fight for limited, constitutional government in Tampa.” Paul on Tuesday began his three-day tour of Texas, speaking to a crowd of about 3,000 supporters at Texas A&M University.
- State Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, has outraised his Democratic primary rivals, former U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez and lawyer John Bustamante, in the closely watched Congressional District 23 race, according to the San Antonio Express-News. But Gallego, who has raised more than $300,000, still trails Republican incumbent Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco, who has taken in $385,000.
- Texas had the fourth-highest teen birth rate in the nation in 2010, according to data released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Texas' 52.2 births per 1,000 girls marks an improvement from 2009, when the state ranked No. 3, but is still far beyond the national average of 34.3 births per 1,000 girls. The CDC report noted that teen birth rates are at an all-time low nationally across all ethnicities.
"We know the toll the process takes on the candidates and their families, as well as the honor of being in the arena fighting to keep America great and strong." — Rick Perry in a statement on Rick Santorum's exit from the presidential race
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