Well, now, of course he would, just as, no doubt, Rick Santorum would be delighted if Newt Gingrich dropped out. The difference is that Newt said it:

Mr. Gingrich made clear that he is not asking Mr. Santorum to leave the race, but the remark reflects the boastfulness the former speaker often displays when he feels a sudden boost in momentum.

“I would be delighted if he decided to endorse me,” he told reporters here after being asked if Mr. Santorum should drop out. “I’m respectful that Rick has every right to run as long as he feels that’s what he should do. But from the standpoint of the conservative movement, consolidating into a Gingrich candidacy would, in fact, virtually guarantee victory on Saturday.”

Mr. Santorum essentially tied Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses and Mr. Gingrich for fourth place in last week’s New Hampshire primary. But Mr. Gingrich often says [he] is the only Republican contender who can run a national campaign besides front-runner Mr. Romney. “I don’t think Santorum could do any of that,” he said. “It’s not because he’s not a nice guy, he just doesn’t have the knowledge that I do.”

Well, yes, but neither does Gingrich have the knowledge Santorum has.

Never mind that Santorum swept Gingrich in Iowa. Never mind that the very latest count shows Santorum also edged out Gingrich in New Hampshire. Never mind that Santorum last weekend received a significant endorsement from a group of evangelical leaders or that he picked up the endorsement of a South Carolina state senator who defected from the Rick Perry camp. Gingrich had a good debate last night — so why shouldn’t Santorum be the one to endorse him and not the other way around?

To listen to Gingrich, it’s really just a question of whether Santorum and Perry want to get out now and play a part in his victory over Romney — or later, when they might actually be to blame for a Romney victory. He expounded on that theme to Laura Ingraham on her radio show.

“One of my goals over the next four days is to convince South Carolina conservatives that voting for me is the one way that they can stop a moderate from becoming the nominee. And if I can convince enough people that the other votes are for nice guys who aren’t going to win that they functionally help Romney become the nominee. … You are going to see, just as we are now down to five, we’ll be down to four or to three pretty rapidly and I think everybody agrees that of the three guys who are conservatives I am the one with the most staying power, the most resources.”

Unfortunately for Gingrich, not “everybody” agrees he’s the candidate with the most staying power. Perhaps this argument would have been more effective when Gingrich was the undisputed frontrunner. At this point, while Gingrich still polls well nationally, a path to the nomination for Santorum exists — a path that’s at least as plausible as the path to the nomination for Gingrich. Either just needs to outlast the other.

That said, the two are obviously not perfectly interchangeable. As just one example, they have very different ideas about Social Security reform, as last night indicated. On that subject, Gingrich does present a more definite alternative to Romney. That is, Gingrich’s approach differs more widely from Romney’s than does Santorum’s.

My exit question is this: Whose approach is best? Do we move to aggressively reform Social Security, as Gingrich wants to do — even if that means slower elimination of the debt? Or do we take smaller steps as we focus primarily on taming the debt, as Santorum would prefer? As a young person, I’m tempted by Gingrich’s proposals, but Santorum’s cautions about the debt seemed to make sense, too.