Santorum rivals offer kudos, stay in US race

The two Republican White House contenders still challenging frontrunner Mitt Romney offered praise Tuesday to Rick Santorum after the former senator quit the race, while vowing to continue their campaigns.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Representative Ron Paul said they would keep campaigning on conservative values with Santorum out of the race.

Gingrich sent an email to supporters calling himself "the last conservative standing" and asked for donations to his campaign for the nomination to face President Barack Obama in November.

"Rick is a good friend and I commend him on the strong campaign he ran, standing up for the conservative values that we hold dear," Gingrich said in his email.

"As the last remaining conservative in this race, we urgently need your financial support today... Time after time we've defied the political odds during this campaign, proving that the American people are hungry for a candidate with bold ideas and the courage to take the fight to President Obama."

Gingrich added: "I am committed to staying in this race all the way to (the party convention in) Tampa so that the conservative movement has a real choice."

Paul's campaign chairman Jesse Benton meanwhile offered congratulations to Santorum "on running such a spirited campaign" and added that Paul "is now the last -- and real -- conservative alternative to Mitt Romney."

"We plan to continue running hard, secure delegates, and press the fight for limited, constitutional government in Tampa," Benton added.

Santorum's surprise decision appeared to clear the field for Romney, who has a commanding lead despite doubts by many in the conservative wing of the party.

Gingrich, who has won just two contests and is also lagging far behind his rivals with his campaign mired in debt, acknowledged Sunday that Romney was his party's "most likely" nominee.

Paul, known as a libertarian, has not won any of the contests so far.

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Santorum Ends 'Against All Odds' Campaign

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