SantorumOut

Rick Santorum's exit paves way for Mitt Romney on social media

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It didn't take long on Wednesday afternoon, when Rick Santorum ended his campaign for the White House, for the story to go from “Santorum's out” to “Mitt Romney's in.”

In fact, Romney saw a significant bump on Facebook Wednesday night. But even if Santorum was packing up and heading home, he was getting a warm farewell on Facebook, which should bode well for his political future.

News that Santorum was going to announce his departure from the race first broke on Twitter, and it didn't take long for him to become the most mentioned candidate. Santorum gained more mentions in one day than any other moment in the last month. On Monday, according to statistics from Topsy, Santorum had only scored 2,817 mentions on Twitter, but 24 hours later he was just south of 140,000. Romney had just over 32,000 mentions in that same time period.

Meanwhile on Facebook, at about the same time Santorum took to the stage in Gettysburg, Pa. to announce the end of his race, the campaign posted this:

“Today I announced that I am suspending my campaign for the President of the United States. This has been one of the hardest decisions Karen and I have ever had to face together. And it has been hard in large measure because of you. I know that my candidacy has offered you a way to fight for your convictions. Together, we have fought for the principles that this country was founded on; that made this country great. Without fighting for them, this country cannot continue to be great.”

The message turned out to be one of his most popular in recent weeks, with more than 9,000 likes, 7,000 comments, and 1,000 shares. Santorum even gained Facebook fans (about 400 in 24 hours) and that could help the social conservative build a political brand in the future, much like Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee have done in the past.

But Santorum will have to make sure he doesn't make the same mistakes Michelle Bachmann made by letting her accounts sit cold. That inactivity has continued to result in a loss in like for the Minnesota Congresswomen—not good when you're facing reelection back home.

But if Santorum was having a fond farewell on social media, Romney was winning it all.

The GOP front runner was gaining fans at a rapid pace on Wednesday morning, proving perhaps that the Republican party may not be as splintered as some thought—or at least proving the old saying true: “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line.”

In a 24 hour period, ending on Tuesday evening, Romney had gained more than 5,500 likes on Facebook, his biggest jump in a month.

Romney noted Santorum's departure on Facebook and Twitter, but he kept the message short and simple, writing “Senator Santorum is an able and worthy competitor, and I congratulate him on the campaign he ran.” The brevity of the message could be a sign that Romney was trying to downplay Santorum's role in the race and that he has been ready for the general election battle against the president for sometime.

Santorum's departure was also noticed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who quickly changed his Facebook cover photo to him standing next to the message “the last conservative standing.” But even if he said his campaign is standing, his social media power is floundering. On Wednesday, Gingrich lost about 80 fans, a trend that shows no sign of stopping.

Photo via Facebook