Rick Santorum drops out, returning New York’s G.O.P. primary to its customary unimportance

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Rick Santorum. (Gage Skidmore, via flickr)
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So much for New York's return to relevance in the Republican nominating contest.

The suspension of Rick Santorum's presidential campaign this afternoon means the state's April 24 primary is back to its customary level of importance, which is to say, almost none.

Earlier this month, with Santorum promising to hang on even after what seemed to be critical losses to Mitt Romney, the race had devolved into a delegate-counting exercise, and New York, with 95 delegates, was a big prize.

Romney's supporters in the New York G.O.P. establishment promised to put together what would amount to a knockout blow for the leader. Santorum and Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, announced that they would appear at the state party's annual dinner on April 19.

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State chairman Ed Cox said it was an "exciting time for New York Republicans" to be playing "a decisive role" in the primaries for the first time in many years.

Santorum's exit doesn't mean the whole thing is over yet, officially. Gingrich issued a statement reiterating his intention to stay in the race until the convention, and his local supporters will, presumably, be making a push for liberated Santorum voters. (The former speaker was already looking to try and revive his moribund campaign in New York. He was said to have a "blistering" schedule planned and his wife, Callista, was in the city today to give a couple speeches to Republican clubs.)

But even with Santorum gone, Gingrich will almost certainly not get anywhere near Romney, in New York or anywhere else. According to a Siena poll released this morning, Romney had more support here than Gingrich and Santorum combined.

Maybe in 2016.