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Rick Santorum Reflects on Campaign, Hardship for Family Members

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(LANCASTER, Pa) — As he wrapped up the day that he ended his presidential campaign, Rick Santorum reflected on the impact his decision to run for president had on his family, saying the experience was always more trying on his family members than himself.

“Karen and four of the kids were there,” Santorum said of his withdrawal from the race Tuesday during an event at Lancaster Bible College Tuesday evening. “I can’t say it was an emotional moment for me. I know it’s a little tougher for the family, always is tougher for the family.”

Santorum said throughout the campaign he asked people to pray for his family because “they’re the ones that bear the brunt. You’re out there in the arena and your adrenaline’s flowing — you’re getting hit and hitting back and you’re sort of going back and forth. It’s different than being on the sidelines and seeing the people, the person that you love, getting hit. It hurts more. And so it was a little tougher for Karen and the kids. They did an amazing job as they always have in standing behind me in every sense of the word.”

Despite suspending his presidential campaign earlier in the day, Santorum maintained his schedule Tuesday evening, appearing at the pre-arranged “American Heartland Conversation on Faith, Family, and American Values” with James Dobson, founder of the conservative group Focus on the Family, who probed Santorum about his decision to end his 10-month campaign.

When he announced his withdrawal from the race in Gettysburg, Pa., Tuesday afternoon, Santorum indicated the recent hospitalization of his 3-year-old daughter Bella, who suffers from the rare genetic disorder Trisomy 18, influenced his reconsideration about his path forward in the presidential race, and Santorum expounded upon the trials of raising a developmentally disabled child Tuesday evening.

“There’s a lot of pressure on moms and dads because of the burden of a disabled child. Look, it is a hardship. A lot of these children require a tremendous amount of care and I can understand the pain and hardship, but I can tell you as someone who has gone through it, Bella is a great — we have seven children and they are all a tremendous great gift. But Bella is, all of the kids would tell you, is a special one,” Santorum said. “She talks in her own way. She doesn’t talk in a way that you would understand but she talks in a way that we understand. She’s a happy, healthy girl. Like everybody else, like every other kid, she gets sick. The problem is when she gets sick it’s life-threatening.”

Karen Santorum initially was scheduled to appear with her husband at the Tuesday-evening event but, according to Dobson, “She just didn’t feel she had the emotional strength….She was planning to be here until today.”

“She is a very special lady,” Dobson added. “Karen would have made a great first lady. And who knows? Maybe she will, yet.”

Santorum, who characterized himself during the campaign as the social conservative capable of beating Mitt Romney, expressed dismay that so many labeled him as an “extremist” when others in the presidential race held many of the same positions as he did.

“If you go down the list of, sort of, the life, marriage, social conservative issues, we were all pretty much in line,” Santorum said. “Yet, I was considered the extremist, which I found very interesting.”

Santorum said it was a “great blessing to be involved in this campaign,” and he took pride in “all of the things we were able to accomplish in standing up and speaking up for those who don’t have a voice.”

Asked if he has any upcoming plans, Santorum, who ran one of the most rigorously scheduled campaigns of 2012, admitted he was looking forward to catching up on some rest, saying, “I’d like to get some sleep!”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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