Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum (Credit: AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
(CNN) – Rick Santorum, donning his trademark sweater vest, told Jay Leno on Tuesday that the timing of his Mitt Romney endorsement in no way reflected his feelings toward the presumptive GOP nominee.
"We decided to put it out late at night so it would be, sort of, the first thing people would see in the morning," Santorum said on NBC's "Tonight Show."
At 11 p.m. ET Monday, Santorum sent a lengthy e-mail to supporters laying out details of a meeting he held with Romney last week. In the 13th paragraph, he wrote that Romney "has my endorsement and support to win this the most critical election of our lifetime."
Leno asked the former presidential candidate why the big announcement came so far down in the note. Santorum pushed back, saying his intention wasn't to bury the news.
"I laid out, sort of, the case. And just said sort of here's what we went through. Here's the discussion. This was a letter to my supporters who were for me, to say here's now why we should rally around Mitt Romney and support him," Santorum said.
The task of endorsing his former chief rival didn't come easy, Santorum explained.
"It was a rough-and-tumble campaign," he said. "I can't say it would have been an easy thing to turn around and say, 'Let's just go forward.' I wanted an opportunity to sort of think about it a little bit and the family to think about it."
When Leno asked Santorum about contraception, the candidate laid out his personal views.
"These are my religious beliefs," Santorum said. "My religious beliefs are that contraception is wrong, and therefore my wife and I don't believe in that. I would never impose that on anybody else. I never voted to stop contraception."
The topic emerged on the campaign trail in February after the Obama administration's decision to require contraception coverage by health care plans, even those offered by religiously affiliated groups that oppose birth control. The rule was later modified.
Santorum said it wasn't his position to push bans of things he opposes.
"I don't believe in smoking. I wouldn't vote for any bans on smoking," he said.
Leno quipped, "So a gay couple smoking with contraception would be the worst thing."
"Heaven forbid!" Santorum jokingly exclaimed.