Rick Santorum Drops Out, Backs Rubio
Room for all the candidates on one debate stage now
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 3, 2016 2:21 PM CST
Updated Feb 3, 2016 7:31 PM CST
Rick Santorum looks at his target during a campaign stop at the Central Impact Shooting Range, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 in Boone, Iowa.   (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

(Newser) – And then there were nine: Rick Santorum this evening became the latest Republican presidential candidate to drop out of the race. Santorum, who won the 2012 Iowa caucuses but didn't make much of a dent this year, made the announcement on Fox News and paired it with an endorsement of Marco Rubio, reports Politico. “I don't endorse lightly,” said Santorum, but he called Rubio a "tremendously gifted young man” who represents "the new generation" of American leadership.

In particular, he praised Rubio's embrace of family combined with his tough approach to threats such as the Islamic State. He is "someone that can bring this country together—not just moderates and conservatives but young and old." Santorum visited all 99 Iowa counties for this campaign, but he outperformed only former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore on Monday night, notes the Washington Post. The news comes after Mike Huckabee left the race Monday night and Rand Paul dropped out Wednesday morning.