"It allows the focus to be on President Obama now," said state Sen. Jake Corman, an old friend and long-time supporter of Santorum, who represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate and House for 16 years. "All races are about the incumbent at the end of the day."
Jim Roddey, the Republican chairman in Allegheny County and a longtime supporter of front-runner Mitt Romney, said Santorum's withdrawal two weeks before the state's April 24 primary was good for the party and for the former Massachusetts governor.
"I think he did the right thing. He realized that he did not have the resources to compete with Romney in Pennsylvania. ... And I think he is trying to put a positive spin on it," Roddey said.
Santorum had been facing a primary loss in his own home state. But in withdrawing from the race, he said, "We were winning in a very different way because we were touching hearts. We were raising issues that, well, frankly, a lot of people didn't want to have raised."
He said he came to the decision with his family after his daughter Bella, who suffers from a rare and serious genetic condition, was hospitalized over the holiday weekend. She came home Monday night.
Corman, a Centre County resident who chairs the state Senate Appropriations Committee, said he remains convinced that the conservative Santorum would make a stronger nominee but that Romney's advantage in money and delegates to the national GOP convention all but ruled out that possibility.
"If I thought Rick could still be the nominee, I would have recommended to him to stay in the race," Corman said.
State Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason said Santorum's surprisingly potent campaign helped create momentum for the GOP heading into the fall campaign against Democratic President Barack Obama.
Gleason, who has remained neutral in the primary fight, recalled the upset win in a 1990 U.S. House race that launched Santorum's political career and said his meteoric rise in the presidential battle was "just Rick being Rick."
"After winning multiple Republican primaries and caucuses, the nation had had a chance to witness his passion for America firsthand," he said.