Romney Nomination Appears Set after Santorum Exit

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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney now has a clear shot at President Obama in the race for the White House.

With chief competitor Rick Santorum stepping down, Romney takes the mantle he has always expected -- the presumed nominee for the Republican Party.

"Miracle after miracle, this race was as improbable as any race you will see for president," Santorum told supporters Tuesday afternoon.

The former senator was trailing in his home state of Pennsylvania, and with the primary two weeks away, his uphill climb against a much better funded Romney could have ended in an embarrassing defeat.

"We made a decision to get into this race at our kitchen table, against all the odds, and we made a decision over the weekend that while this presidential race for us is over, for me, and we will suspend our campaign effective today, we are not done fighting," the former presidential hopeful said.

But the winner of Iowa and nine other states left his mark on the race and a few bruises on Romney.

"He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama," Santorum said on March 25.

Though Santorum didn't immediately say if that opinion has changed or if he would now endorse Romney, the front-runner was celebrating.

"This has been a good day for me," Romney said.

The former governor had been planning an aggressive $2 million attack on Santorum. Now he can target that money and his energy on Obama.

Meanwhile, at a campaign event in Florida Tuesday, the president said America had not seen such a contrast between candidates "in a long time."

"This is not just your run-of-the-mill political debate. We have not seen a contrast like this in a long time," Obama said.

Still, CBN News senior political reporter David Brody said Romney is not guaranteed the support of Santorum's evangelical and Tea Party base. He will have to earn it.

"Sure a lot of them are going to vote for Romney and a lot of them are on the fence and it's those votes that Romney has to be concerned about," Brody said.

The two remaining candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, both call themselves the "real" conservatives in the race.

Dr. Richard Land, the director of the Southern Baptist Convention, predicted Romney will be able to pick up much of the evangelical vote.

Land said it's important for Romney to continue stressing key issues like marriage, support for Israel, and opposition to abortion.

He also said he expects the media to begin attacking Romney for his Mormon faith.

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Dale Hurd

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A CBN News veteran, Dale Hurd has reported extensively from Western Europe, as well as China, Russia, and Central and South America.  Since 9/11, Dale has reported in depth on various aspects of the global war on terror in the United States and Europe.  Follow Dale on Twitter @HurdontheWeb and "like" him at Facebook.com/DaleHurdNews.