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Romney Calls Negative Ad Cease-Fire As Santorum Tends To Sick Daughter

Updated at 2:23 pm: Rick Santorum's daughter, Bella, is expected to be released from the hospital by Monday evening given the improvement in her condition, said Alice Stewart, spokeswoman for the former senator's campaign.

Assuming her release goes as planned and Santorum, who took a break from his campaign to tend to his daughter and for the Easter holiday, returns to the trail, that would clear the way for the Romney campaign to resume its negative advertising against Santorum.

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Mitt Romney's campaign has asked TV stations in Pennsylvania to pull down its negative advertising against Rick Santorum, his rival for the Republican presidential nomination, as the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania stays off the campaign to tend to his sick daughter.

In a brief statement, Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said:

"We have done this out of deference to Sen. Santorum's decision to suspend his campaign for personal family reasons."

A person familiar with the situation said the Romney campaign made the request Monday morning which was the earliest it could reach the relevant contacts at broadcast and cable operations because of the holiday weekend.

Stations were asked to pull an anti-Santorum ad that started running last week as soon as was technically possible. That leaves open the chance that the negative ad could be seen by some Pennsylvania voters beyond Monday morning because of the automated technology some stations use to manage their ads.

A new ad called "Conservative Record" which shows a clip of Romney pointing to record as Massachusetts governor as proof that he's a fiscal hawk sent for the stations to run in place of the anti-Santorum ad.

Without questioning whether the move was made from sincere compassion, because it's likely to be seen as the decent and honorable thing to do from the average voter's perspective, it could earn Romney some points with voters which, according to some polls, he could use.

The long primary fight, with the attacks on him and his attacks on his rivals, has damaged Romney's likeability ratings. A recent poll showed that his unfavorable ratings had increased to 50 percent by the of March from 34 percent in January.

So calling a ceasefire on negative advertising against Santorum, at least for the time being, could help repair some of that.

Recent polls have shown the former Massachusetts governor surging in the run up to Pennsylvania's April 24 primary, with Romney either behind the former U.S. senator and native son by single digits, a much smaller gap than a few weeks ago, or even slightly ahead.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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