Posted at 03:41 PM ET, 01/17/2012

Newt Gingrich says he’d be ‘delighted’ with Rick Santorum endorsement

This post has been updated.

Attention Rick Santorum: Newt Gingrich would love to have your endorsement.


Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). (Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)
That is, of course, provided Santorum bows out of the presidential race – something the former Pennsylvania senator doesn’t appear keen on doing anytime soon.

The Wall Street Journal’s Danny Yadron reports that Gingrich, the former House speaker eyeing a strong showing in South Carolina’s first-in-the-South primary Saturday, told reporters Tuesday afternoon in Florence, S.C., that he’d welcome the backing of his GOP rival.

“I would be delighted if he decided to endorse me,” Gingrich said, according to the Journal report. “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.”

The statement from Gingrich came after the former speaker received rave reviews for his performance in Monday night’s GOP debate in Myrtle Beach.

Asked what he thought of the comments, Santorum shot back Tuesday afternoon that Gingrich – who placed behind Santorum in both Iowa and New Hampshire – is in no position to talk.

“I think someone who’s lost two elections to me so far shouldn’t be telling the person he’s lost two elections to to get out of the race,” Santorum said after a Republican lunch in Aiken, S.C. “If this is his idea of how to win a national campaign—by finishing fourth and fifth—maybe he needs to understand that winning a national campaign means you need to finish first or second to be in the competition. That’s what we’ve done.”

The back-and-forth comes as Santorum appears to be rounding up support from key social conservative leaders. The former senator emerged as the choice of a group of evangelical leaders who met in Texas last Friday, although some of those leaders later said that their support remains firmly behind Gingrich, not Santorum.

Meanwhile, Santorum is still holding out hope for a win in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa, which held its nominating contest on Jan. 3. Santorum trailed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) by eight votes in the unofficial tally released earlier this month, but some reports have stated that Santorum may be up by as many as 80 votes in the official results.

Ryan Gough, a spokesman for the Iowa Republican Party, said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon that all 99 of Iowa’s counties have until 5 p.m. Central Standard Time on Wednesday to submit their precinct results.

The state party then expects to announce the certified caucus results by the end of the week.

By and  |  03:41 PM ET, 01/17/2012

 
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