At an afternoon rally Rick Santorum announced that he was effectively ending his campaign for the Republican Party’s Presidential nomination.

Santorum did surprisingly well during the primary season, well exceeding expectations. He ended up winning the second most states and delegates. The problem for Santorum though, was that he was simply unable to stop the much better funded and better organized campaign of Mitt Romney. Romney’s natural coalition was simply larger and his organization advanced help in critical ways, like getting on the ballot in Virginia, which Santorum failed to do.

In the past few weeks it has become clear that there was no way Santorum could stop Romney, particularly after Santorum lost Illinois and Wisconsin. Both the Republican establishment and the GOP base have come around to accepting that Romney is inevitable.

The fact that polling was starting to show that Santorum could potentially lose his home state of Pennsylvania, likely played a big role in encouraging Santorum to end his campaign now to avoid the possible embarrassment.

Santorum’s surprisingly strong performance throughout the primary season helped to significantly improve his conservative brand and promote his status as a spokesman in the conservative movement. By getting out now, Santorum avoids undoing these gains by being seen as a sore loser needlessly hurting the nominee. For Santorum this is probably the smart career move.

With Santorum effectively out of the race, Mitt Romney will be free to focus completely on President Obama and the general election.