Politics

Rick Santorum Leaves Florida To Aid Ill Daughter

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Rick Santorum (credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Rick Santorum (credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum canceled his Sunday morning campaign events and planned to spend time with his hospitalized daughter.

“Rick and his wife Karen are admitting their daughter Bella to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia this evening,” spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement Saturday night, adding “Rick intends to return to Florida and resume the campaign schedule as soon as is possible.”

Santorum had been scheduled to appear on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and attend church in Miami. Officials did not cancel Sunday’s afternoon events in Sarasota and Punta Gorda.

Isabella Santorum has Trisomy 18, a genetic condition caused by the presence of all or part of an extra 18th chromosome. When asked about her, Santorum says his daughter was not expected to survive until her first birthday and often has to catch himself to stop from tears.

“I have a little girl who’s 3 ½ years old,” he told Christian conservatives in Iowa before winning that lead-off contest.

“I don’t know whether her life is going to be measured — it’s always been measured — in days and weeks. Yet here I am. … because I feel like I wouldn’t be a good dad if I wasn’t out here fighting for a country that would see the dignity in her and every other child.”

When voters ask him about her, he calls the decision to campaign “gut-retching” but says he goes forward for all special needs families.

“You think she’s fine, and then one cold and she’s this close to dying,” he told The Washington Post last year in an interview.

In October, he missed one of Bella’s surgeries to participate in a debate and told the audience that he planned to take an all-night flight home from Las Vegas to be with her.

“I look at the simplicity and love she emits,” Santorum said in a web video his campaign released after his scheduling drew questions, “and it’s clear to me we’re the disabled ones.”

Santorum largely has kept his daughter off the campaign schedules, preferring her to stay home with her mother. But Bella did join Santorum for a few days around Iowa’s straw poll in August, and she joined her family in Charleston, S.C., the day of its primary.

She didn’t join her six siblings for the public speech. She stayed backstage.

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