Gingrich to Santorum: Get lost

posted at 9:15 am on January 31, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday it was the Gingrich campaign that began complaining publicly about Rick Santorum’s continued presence in the race costing them a shot a Florida.  Today, it’s the candidate himself:

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich says rival Rick Santorum should take a look at the poll numbers, which show Gingrich beating him, and drop out.

“The longer conservatives stay split, the harder it’s going to be for us to [beat Romney],” Gingrich said on FOX and Friends on Tuesday. “And I think that we risk not being able to beat Obama unless we get a conservative. I have to win the nomination.”

Santorum is sapping conservative votes from Gingrich, the former House speaker said.

Oddly, Gingrich didn’t appear as principled on the subject of conservative consolidation when Santorum won Iowa and Gingrich finished fourth, nor when Santorum narrowly edged Gingrich for fourth place in New Hampshire.  If he was concerned about a conservative sacrificing to make sure a conservative alternative had the strength to beat Mitt Romney at that time, Gingrich didn’t pull a muscle leaping out of his chair to volunteer.  Needless to say, neither has Santorum, who told Gingrich in response to run his own campaign:

“I don’t think either one of them are the right choice,” Santorum said, referring to Gingrich and front-runner Mitt Romney. “And if you want to look at the real conservative, we’re the real conservative that can win.”

Santorum touted his victory in Iowa as an advantage he still holds over both candidates.

“Neither Governor Romney nor Newt Gingrich had run as a conservative in a state we had to win. …. I’ve done it,” Santorum said.

Actually, Santorum was talking about Pennsylvania in that statement, not Iowa.  Santorum won’t ask Gingrich to pull out:

Santorum tells Fox News Channel that one candidate shouldn’t tell another “to get out of the race and get out of the way.” …

Santorum says he thinks he’s the better, more conservative candidate himself — but that wouldn’t justify asking Gingrich to quit. He says, “Everybody should run.”

It’s hard to square this notion of Santorum depriving Gingrich of a Florida victory with reality.  First, Florida isn’t really a deeply conservative state, and Santorum wasn’t much of a threat to anyone there after falling far off the pace in South Carolina, where he should have been more of a a threat, especially after winning Iowa.  That didn’t keep Gingrich from scoring a double-digit victory in the Palmetto State with Santorum on the ticket.  Nor did Santorum’s presence in Florida keep Gingrich from rolling up an impressive polling lead early last week, both in the state and nationally.

Gingrich didn’t lose that lead to Santorum, who has barely budged at all from the low double digits in the last two weeks.  He lost support to Romney, thanks to a couple of poor debate performances and this kind of angry, whining behavior on the campaign trail.  It seems that Gingrich wants to find someone to take the blame for a Florida flop, and anyone will do but himself.


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