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Rick Santorum Quits 2016 Presidential Race, Endorses Marco Rubio

After Rand Paul, another poor finisher in the Iowa caucuses is out, making Rick Santorum's campaign the third victim so far of the vote in the Hawkeye State.
Former senator Rick Santorum prepares to participate in the undercard Republican Presidential debate, at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa, 28 January 2016.Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum announced Wednesday evening that he ending his second presidential campaign and endorsing Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

"He is the new generation and someone that can bring this country together," Santorum said of Rubio on Fox News's On the Record With Greta Van Susteren.

Santorum is the second Republican candidate to call it quits Wednesday, after Sen. Rand Paul suspended his campaign earlier in the day. Santorum's announcement comes two days after a disappointing last-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, one of the best early states for a religious conservative like himself. The loss was particularly painful for Santorum, who won the caucuses there just four years ago. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, who took the caucus title in 2008, ended his own campaign Monday night.

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The endorsement of Rubio was a surprise for Santorum, who attended a Trump rally last week and has run two campaigns focused largely on social issues.

Santorum's challenges in the presidential race underscore the uniqueness of the 2016 cycle. Typically, the Republican Party has nominated the candidate seen as next in line after a previous run, as it did in 2012 with Mitt Romney, who had been a presidential candidate before. But this year, Paul Ryan — who had been Romney's running mate four years ago — took a pass on the race, as did the number two and three finishers in 2012, Rep. Ron Paul and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, respectively. Santorum, who had come in fourth, polled in the low single digits all cycle. And now the GOP leaders are an outsider businessman, Donald Trump, and two freshmen senators, Ted Cruz and Rubio.

Related: After Iowa: Rubio, Sanders, Trump All Have Big Opportunities in New Hampshire

Earlier in the day, Kentucky senator Rand Paul had thrown in the towel with a statement.

"It's been an incredible honor to run a principled campaign for the White House. Today, I will end where I began, ready and willing to fight for the cause of Liberty," Paul announced. "Brushfires of Liberty were ignited, and those will carry on, as will I."

Another election back in Paul's home state hadcomplicated his presidential campaign. Paul is up for reelection in Kentucky this year, and, although he continued to focus on the presidential race, he kept open the option of running for his Senate seat again.

He now faces a potentially difficult Democratic challenger in Jim Gray, the mayor of Lexington. Many state Republicans, including some of Paul's own supporters, have been publicly encouraging him for months to drop to his flagging presidential bid to focus maintaining Republican control of the Senate next year.

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