SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Republican candidate Rick Santorum has suspended his campaign for the GOP nomination.
Santorum made the announcement during a news conference in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on Tuesday afternoon.
Santorum was a surprise frontrunner at one point during the grueling campaign, and picked up key delegates in southern and mid western states while challenging Mitt Romney, who has been leading in the delegate count ever since the Florida primary in January.
Santorum has traded barbs with Romney over the past month, and at one point claimed his opponent was the "worst" candidate to face President Obama in the November campaign.
During his Gettysburg news conference, Santorum thanked his family and supporters who have been helpful in spreading his conservative message.
"The race is over for me," said Santorum.
In a statement released through Twitter, Romney said, "Senator Santorum is an able and worthy competitor, and I congratulate him on the campaign he ran."
ABC News reports that Santorum called Romney earlier in the day to concede the nomination.
Santorum also pledged to help defeat Obama in November, but did not mention any specific support for Mitt Romney.
"We are going to continue to go out there and fight to make sure that we defeat President Barack Obama," said Santorum.
Santorum, who served as United States Senator representing Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2007 lost a re-election bid by 19 points to Democrat Bob Casey in November 2006.
The announcement comes just two weeks before the Pennsylvania Primary, in which he has lost a significant lead to Romney over the past month. Romney has led over Santorum in some polls while in a virtual tie in others.
Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul now remain the only viable GOP candidates who oppose Romney, although Gingrich has recently commented that he thinks the former Massachusetts governor will be the eventual nominee, while cutting back on his own campaign staff.
Gingrich later released a statement, pledging to stay in GOP race until convention to give conservatives 'a real choice'. Gingrich made one more play to grab Santorum supporters.
Ron Paul offered a similar statement.
Despite their intentions to stay in the race, Gingrich and Paul are trailing far behind in delegates and in national polls. With Santorum's announcement, Mitt Romney will more than likely become the Republican nominee in August.
Santorum's absence clears the way for Romney to focus on the race against Obama, including new efforts to raise campaign funds.
Stay tuned to ABC 4 News and ABC4.com for more on this story.