Such doggedness worries conservative leaders who consider Rick Santorum’s tandem wins on Tuesday as more evidence that he is the preferred choice of voters who are seeking an alternative to Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner. But Santorum needs Gingrich to step aside so he can face Romney one on one, several Republicans said.
“There won’t be a lot of public pronouncements, but there will be a lot of private phone calls beginning today,” said conservative strategist Keith Appell, who is supporting Santorum. “As much as Newt may feel that he should stay in, his campaign is really living on borrowed time.”
Richard Viguerie, another prominent Republican supporting Santorum, said Wednesday that he is “urging conservatives” to pressure Gingrich to step aside. He writes a newsletter that reaches 100,000 subscribers nationally, and he focused on the topic Wednesday.
“The vast, vast majority of people in the political arena, including almost all conservatives, don’t see a path for Gingrich to get the nomination,” Viguerie said in a telephone interview. “It’s hard to give it up, but I would expect after a few days he would give up. He’s never going to be stronger in the presidential race than right now. Every day that goes by, he’s going to lose support.”
Viguerie has no plans to make the case directly to Gingrich, and as of Wednesday, it was unclear whether anyone had. Several Republicans interviewed said there is a strong desire to give Gingrich the time he needs to make his own decision — and to afford him the respect due to a man who is considered a member of the family within the conservative movement. Santorum adviser John Brabender, for instance, said it is “premature” to talk about having conversations with the Gingrich camp — although he added that “we would be very interested in sitting down and talking, but that would be a decision for their campaign.”
One prominent conservative who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter candidly said an effort is underway to ask Texas Gov. Rick Perry to urge Gingrich to step aside. But Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan said Wednesday that the governor is grateful to two of his top supporters — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback — for sticking with him during his waning days in the race and for letting Perry decide when to withdraw.