Looking beyond Florida, Santorum sees reason to stay in GOP race

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who left the campaign trail over the weekend to tend to his ailing toddler, returned to the fray Monday, making stops in Missouri and Minnesota.

In an interview on CNN, Santorum said his daughter, who was admitted to a Virginia hospital with double pneumonia, was doing much better.

"She went through a very, very tough time," said Santorum. "But yesterday afternoon, she really rallied. She's doing much better and we feel things are good and that I can get back out on the road.... But it was, it was hairy. I just want to thank you and everybody else for their prayers during this time. And it meant the world to us. And I know it helped Bella a lot."

Isabella Santorum, who suffers from a severe genetic disorder called Trisomy 18, is often in frail health. Santorum has said that even a cold could be fatal to her.

Originally, Santorum said, he had left Florida to do his taxes and prepare for the release of four years of returns. His daughter's illness just happened to coincide with his trip home, where he had not been since Christmas. He did not say when he would release his returns.

Leaving Florida probably did not do much damage to Santorum's campaign. He is trailing badly in that state, where the race is a two-man contest between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Florida polls.

Santorum's triumph in Iowa, where he lavished his time and was rewarded by the state's evangelical Christians and social conservatives, may turn out to have been his campaign's high point. Underfunded and understaffed, he is at a severe disadvantage now.

Still, he told CNN he has no intention of dropping out, though many have suggested his presence in the race helps Romney by splitting the conservative vote with Gingrich.

"Well, I mean, I look at it this way. I think this is a long process. This race isn't going to be over any time soon. We've got some good poll numbers here in Missouri that shows basically a three-way race between Gov. Romney, Speaker Gingrich and myself. And so we are planting our flag here."

Santorum will stop in Colorado and Nevada on Tuesday. Nevada holds it caucuses on Saturday. Colorado and Minnesota hold caucuses, and Missouri has a primary, on Feb. 7. The next primaries, in Arizona and Michigan, do not take place until Feb. 28.

"This is a national campaign," Santorum said. "We're going to be spending money in all of these states.... This is a race that we believe will come to us at some point. And we'll be able to take advantage of it when it does."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
70°