Washington, April 11 (IANS) Louisiana's Indian American Governor Bobby Jindal came out in support of Mitt Romney as his closest rival Rick Santorum suspended his campaign, effectively ceding the Republican presidential nomination to the frontrunner.
"Congratulations to Governor Romney on winning a hard fought race, I look forward to supporting him in retiring President (Barack) Obama," Jindal, who had remained neutral in the Republican primary race since Texas Governor Rick Perry dropped out, said in a statement.
"I'd also like to congratulate Senator Santorum for running a strong race and for making the difficult decision to step aside at this time," said Jindal who had previously indicated his desire to stay out of the Republican nomination contest to challenge Obama in the November poll.
His decision to step forward following Santorum's withdrawal Tuesday underscores that, despite the continued presence of former House speaker Newt Gingrich and House member Ron Paul in the primary, the general election is underway, Politico, a leading Washington newspaper focused on politics said.
Jindal, whose name is already being floated as a potential Vice Presidential candidate, endorsed Romney hours after fellow governors Terry Branstad of Iowa and Rick Scott of Florida as well as senator Lindsey Graham also got behind Romney.
Romney's conservative challenger Santorum made his announcement after the weekend hospitalisation of his 3-year-old daughter Isabella, and in the face of tightening poll numbers in Pennsylvania -- the state he represented as a US senator -- ahead of the April 24 primary.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we made the decision to get into this race around our kitchen table, against all the odds," Santorum told a news conference, flanked by emotional family members. "We made a decision over the weekend that while the presidential race for us is over, and I will suspend my campaign effective today, we are not done fighting."
The development means Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is now the certain Republican nominee to take on Obama in November as Santorum was his top remaining challenger.
Santorum and Romney spoke before the announcement, and Romney told supporters in Delaware that Santorum "will continue to have a major role in the Republican Party."
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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