Newt Gingrich is still stopping short of telling Rick Santorum to drop out of the GOP presidential race.


Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). (Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press)

“Well, Rick Santorum ... is a factor in this race,” Gingrich’s Florida campaign co-chairman, Bill McCollum, said on CNN on Monday afternoon. “If he weren’t in it, we would clearly be beating Romney right now.”

“I think that Rick is not the player long haul at all,” McCollum added. “I don’t know how long he stays in it. He’s a friend. I know him well. But I think a vote for Rick is simply ... a vote that’s wasted at this point.”

Recent polls show Gingrich trailing former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) by double digits in Florida, with one survey showing Romney ahead by as much as 20 points. That means that if Santorum were to drop out, it’s not a sure bet that Gingrich would be able to make up the deficit.

On the other hand, an NBC News/Marist poll conducted last week backs up the Gingrich camp’s claim. In that survey, Romney takes 42 percent among likely Florida GOP primary voters compared with 27 percent for Gingrich and 16 percent for Santorum.

Add Gingrich’s and Santorum’s percentages and you’d have a combined total of 43 percent – putting the former House speaker in a statistical dead heat with Romney. Of course, that’s assuming that all of Santorum’s voters would flock to Gingrich – and that’s not a sure thing, either.