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Rick Santorum Ends Grassroots-Fueled Bid For Republican Presidential Nomination

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Tuesday, April 10 2012

Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, suspended his presidential campaign on Tuesday, almost exactly a year after he announced the formation of his presidential exploratory committee.

Much of Santorum's presidential bid was fueled by under-the-radar support from the Christian evangelical community, even if it often failed to register in the polls. Online, he also enjoyed the grassroots support of a group of devoted Catholics at Catholicvote.org, a political action committee.

Santorum spent much of his campaign speaking to voters and making as much face-to-face contact as possible, but his campaign was also very active online, and it wasn't afraid of experimenting with new tools, although at times the campaign's tech efforts experienced hiccups as in January when the campaign's web site choked under apparently unanticipated levels of traffic online, for example, after he won the Iowa caucuses.

This support took the form of people like Camille and Haley Harris, a Christian folk-pop duo from Tulsa, Okla., who composed a campaign theme tune for Santorum called "Game On." The sisters campaigned with Santorum, but they also made a music video for him. The video has has logged more than a million views on YouTube, and went on sale in the iTunes store.

Despite this support, Santorum lagged in the polls and in his fundraising efforts. In his campaign suspension announcement on his web site Tuesday, Santorum said that his campaign is still in debt, and he was still soliciting donations of $25, $50 and $73.10, which was the average amount that Santorum's more than 160,000 donors gave.

Last year, Santorum used the social giving platform Fundly to try to get individuals to become mini-bundlers on their social networks. His campaign repeatedly used the platform to run moneybomb campaigns. Many of them fizzled until he won the Iowa caucuses.

Santorum's campaign also showed that it had a sense of humor online, and it used that sense of humor to raise money. Supporters were offered a "Rick Santorum for President" sweater vest if they donated $100 to the campaign. The campaign publicized the offer on twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and YouTube. In a brief announcement Tuesday, Santorum gave a nod to the sweater vest and to the "twitterverse."

Santorum earned the support of some leaders in the evangelical Christian community earlier this year when a group of more than 100 Christian conservatives gathered at a ranch in Brenham, Texas in January before the South Carolina primary to endorse him.

But in recent weeks it became clear that Santorum's momentum was fading, and Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, urged he candidate to step aside on Sunday on the news show "Face The Nation."

What's unclear is where all that grassroots energy will now go. An intriguing new national survey from the Christian non-profit The Barna Group actually says that "there is an unmistakable lack of ideological and political unity within the Christian community."

The Barna Group says that Christian evangelicals represent about seven percent of the adult population, and 10 percent of the likely voter population, meaning that they're politically active. But the survey also found that "should Mitt Romney be the Republican nominee, total voter turnout is likely to be lower than in recent years due to the lackluster interest in the two candidates among the nation's millions of mildly interested voters."