Tweet: Santorum, Gingrich considering “unity effort” to stop Romney

posted at 12:30 pm on April 5, 2012 by Tina Korbe

What Time’s Mark Halperin called a “unity effort” to stop Mitt Romney appears to actually be an effort by Rick Santorum supporters to convince Newt Gingrich to exit the race.

Earlier today, Halperin tweeted, “”BREAKING NEWS: Santo meeting in Virginia now w conservative leaders. Talk re the path forward, Santo-Newt unity effort to stop Romney.”

He followed that up with this: ”Santor[um] source, responding to speculation: ‘He is NOT dropping out before Pennsylvania.’ [Meeting is about the] best way to proceed, not whether to.”

But Katharine Q. Seelye of The New York Times Caucus blog reports that the principal purpose of Rick Santorum’s meeting with conservative leaders was to convince Newt Gingrich to exit the race:

The conservative leaders met with Mr. Santorum and his top aides in northern Virginia. The conservative leaders sought the meeting, according to people familiar with it.

As the race narrows and Mitt Romney looks more and more like the inevitable nominee, several conservative leaders have said they still support Mr. Santorum. But Mr. Santorum has been losing some important states by small margins — in some cases, by the amount that Mr. Gingrich has been siphoning off.

The prospect that Mr. Gingrich might draw enough votes from Mr. Santorum in Pennsylvania — Mr. Santorum’s home state — on April 24 to cost him the primary has given new urgency to the task of getting him out of the race.

Reportedly, these leaders are considering “what role” Gingrich might be able to play in a Santorum victory. Given how unlikely a Santorum nomination is at this point, though, the Santorum campaign has little to offer Newt Gingrich. If it’s a position in a new Republican administration he wants, for example, he’s as likely to get it by staying in the race to make Mitt Romney “earn” the nomination as by dropping out to try to help Santorum.

Santorum’s continued presence in the race indicates that he still has a path to the nomination, though — and that path runs through the delegate-rich states that were already decided by this point in the 2008 primary process. If his supporters can convince Gingrich that his nomination is not only still possible, but even probable without Gingrich in the race, maybe they can inspire Gingrich to let go. Unfortunately, to build that case, Santorum’s supporters would have to be able to declare with confidence that the vast majority of Gingrich’s supporters would transfer their allegiance to Santorum. That wasn’t true several weeks ago when Santorum indicated he’d appreciate it if Gingrich would drop out and it’s probably less true now. Gingrich himself has stopped training his attacks on Mitt Romney, giving his supporters a chance to reevaluate Romney for themselves. The stalwarts of Rick Santorum’s coalition — very conservative evangelical voters — have even begun to warm up to Romney. Gingrich dropping out at this point might be more a boost for Mitt than for Rick.

(H/t Joel Gehrke of The Washington Examiner)


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