Washington, April 11 (IANS) As Mitt Romney emerged as the virtually certain Republican presidential nominee with Rick Santorum suddenly dropping out of the race, Louisiana's Indian American Governor Bobby Jindal came out in support of the front runner.
The Republican race is practically over now as Santorum's surprise decision to suspend his campaign Tuesday removed Romney's most serious competitor from the primary battle to challenge President Barack Obama in the November poll.
Santorum made the announcement in his home state of Pennsylvania. He didn't say exactly why he's getting out of the race, but he did mention his three-year-old daughter Bella's health. She spent the weekend in the hospital with pneumonia.
"Congratulations to Governor Romney on winning a hard fought race, I look forward to supporting him in retiring President Obama," Jindal, who had remained neutral in the Republican primary race since Texas Governor Rick Perry dropped out, said in a statement.
"I'd also like to congratulate Senator Santorum for running a strong race and for making the difficult decision to step aside at this time," said Jindal.
His decision to step forward following Santorum's withdrawal underscores that, despite the continued presence of former House speaker Newt Gingrich and House member Ron Paul in the primary, the general election is underway, Politico, a leading Washington newspaper focused on politics said.
Jindal, whose name is already being floated as a potential vice presidential candidate, endorsed Romney hours after fellow governors Terry Branstad of Iowa and Rick Scott of Florida as well as senator Lindsey Graham also got behind Romney.
The other Indian American governor South Carolina's Nikki Haley had endorsed Romney in December.
But even as Santorum dropped out of the Republican presidential race, he promised to help his party win in November, saying, "This game is a long, long, long way from over. We're gonna continue to go out there to fight to make sure that we defeat President Barack Obama."
However, Santorum didn't go as far as endorsing Romney, the man he's been trying to beat. The former Pennsylvania senator trailed Romney in the delegate vote by nearly 400, and polls showed him losing support in his home state, which would have been an embarrassing defeat.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at email@example.com)