Now that Rick Santorum's daughter is recovering from pneumonia, the Republican presidential candidate is returning to the campaign trail -- but not to Florida, even though its primary is Tuesday and 50 delegates hang in the balance.
Santorum, 53, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, will spend the next two days in the four states that vote after Florida: Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, a schedule released Sunday said. He will hold a town hall meeting in Luverne, Minn., give a major address on jobs and the economy in Cottleville, Mo. and hold a rally in Lone Tree, Colo. -- and on Tuesday night, he will watch the Florida primary results come in at an election-night party in Las Vegas.
Santorum's new schedule is a tacit acknowledgement that, with less than 24 hours before the polls open in Florida, it would be all but impossible for him to place better than a distant third there: the RealClearPolitics poll average shows former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 40.9 percent, former Rep. Newt Gingrich with 29.4 percent, Santorum with 12.9 percent and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) with 10.3 percent. That's not enough to build momentum for Santorum. Florida's delegates are winner-take-all, so he seems to have decided that the upcoming caucus states are a better use of his time.
It's unclear where Santorum stands in Nevada, Colorado and Missouri, because the most recent polls there are from December. He was in third place in Minnesota with 17 percent in a Public Policy Polling survey conducted Jan. 21-22.
Santorum, the father of eight, took a break from campaigning over the weekend to return home and prepare his tax returns for release. That meant he was with his youngest daughter, Isabella, 3, when she got sick on Saturday. Isabella, who has Trisomy 18 -- a genetic disorder that is normally fatal by age 1 -- was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with pneumonia in both lungs. She has made a miraculous turnaround, Santorum said, but she remains hospitalized for the time being.
Santorum's oldest daughter, Elizabeth, campaigned on his behalf in Sarasota, Fla. Elizabeth told supporters her father wished he could be there himself, but that he was exercising his most important role, which is being a dad.
I think back on the many nights around our kitchen table, Elizabeth added. We knew from the very beginning that this would not be easy. This was not the easiest course for our family. ... But we knew that this would be worth it, because America is worth it.