We’re gonna go ahead and say it … the number one question we had (and heard) about former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum’s television ads in South Carolina involved his three-year-old daughter, Bella.

“What’s wrong with her?” people (including our founding editor) asked.

Well, we learned this weekend Bella has Trisomy 18 (a.k.a. Edwards’ syndrome) – which means she has an extra copy of her eighteenth chromosome. Most babies afflicted with Trisomy 18 don’t even make it to birth – and those that are born typically survive for only a week or so. Bella has obviously beaten those odds, but that doesn’t mean her long-term prognosis is good. In fact, it’s unlikely she’ll live to be a teenager.

As numerous news outlets reported, Bella was admitted to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on Saturday night.

Santorum suspended his presidential campaign to be by his daughter’s side (good for him), although the following day he was able to happily report a “miraculous turnaround” during a conference call with Florida voters.

Awwww, right?

Sure … everybody loves a happy ending, although we can’t shake the suspicion that something “John Edwardsy” is going on here.

Look, we’ve defended Santorum against attacks on his family in the past – although the truth is he’s the worst sort of panderer, one who clearly wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to exploit a personal tragedy to its maximum political advantage.

Hell … that’s been his family’s modus operandi in the past.

Look … Rick Santorum has a beautiful little girl. And we’re glad she’s on the mend. Having said that, we think that a more selfless father might show his devotion by putting aside his political ambitions (at least for the time being) … which is what we recommended that John Edwards do in 2008 after his wife’s cancer reemerged.

While we’re sure our cynical assessment of this situation will result in a flood of criticism from Santorum supporters … Bella Santorum’s plight never should have made the national news.

As we’ve noted on previous occasions, her father’s rise to second-tier status in the GOP primary is a testament to the weakness of the 2012 field – and the fact that the average GOP voter appears to have been born with a “kick me” sign on their back.