The National Review wants former House speaker Newt Gingrich to call it quits.

The GOP presidential candidate has long had an uneasy relationship with the mainstream conservative press in general and National Review in particular, and he will likely dismiss the editorial as “establishment” meddling.

The paper’s harsh assessment is likely the tip of the iceberg, however, and Gingrich will be forced to defend his own relevance going forward in the campaign — never a good place for a candidate to be.

“[Former Pennsylvania senator Rick] Santorum has won more contests than Gingrich (who has won only one), has more delegates, and leads him in the polls,” the conservative magazine’s editors write. “It is not clear whether Gingrich remains in the race because he still believes he could become president next year or because he wants to avenge his wounded pride: an ambiguity that suggests the problem with him as a leader.”

The magazine notes that when Gingrich led in polls, he urged Santorum to drop out.

It isn’t the first time the National Review board has come out against Gingrich.

In a December editorial, the magazine begged Republicans to “reject a hasty marriage” to the then-frontrunner, criticizing “his impulsiveness, his grandiosity, his weakness for half-baked (and not especially conservative) ideas.”

The magazine also published an editorial from Elliot Abrams, assistant secretary of state under President Reagan, saying “Gingrich was voluble and certain in predicting that Reagan’s policies would fail, and in all of this he was dead wrong.”

So this suggestion is not a huge departure.

Gingrich could point out that the poll analysis is wrong — were Gingrich (or Santorum) to drop out, polling shows it would only help former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney expand his lead. So those hoping to rally voters around a single “conservative alternative” are misguided. He could argue that Santorum has an equally difficult path to victory.

But the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol is also suggesting last Tuesday was a gamechanger for Santorum. If the conservative chattering class continues to rally around Santorum , Gingrich will face more questions about his relevance in the race. Given his weak responses to such questions after the Nevada caucuses, it’s not clear he has an answer.