Santorum plans four-day Easter holiday from campaign trail

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While there's still plenty of time before the April 24 slate of primaries — which include not just his home state of Pennsylvania, but neighboring New York and Delaware along with Connecticut and Rhode Island — Santorum's decision signals, to some extent, the uphill battle he faces.

Devastating losses in Tuesday's Wisconsin, Maryland and District of Columbia contests have strengthened front-runner Mitt Romney's grasp on the nomination and intensified calls for his GOP rivals to clear the field so he can pivot to a general election showdown with President Obama.

The delegate count, coupled with a new poll Wednesday that showed Romney pulling ahead of Santorum in his home state of Pennsylvania, paint an increasingly bleak picture for the former senator.

Santorum conceded Tuesday that Pennsylvania was a must-win.

"We have to win here, and we plan on winning here," Santorum said to supporters at a campaign stop at a Pittsburgh-area diner, according to CNN. "As I said last night, the people of Pennsylvania know me. All of the negative attacks are, I think, going to fall on a lot of deaf ears here. We've got a strong base of support here. And we're going to work very, very hard."

But Santorum insisted he was ready to press on, potentially all the way to the convention, dismissing calls to exit the race.

"I think I've enjoyed about eight months of people saying that," Santorum said. "Everyone has been asking me, from the days I was traveling around in the truck in Iowa, to get out of the race.

"I've never been the party establishment's candidate. And that holds true to today."