Gingrich suggests Santorum, Perry should exit race

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"If we win on Saturday, I think I will be the nominee," Gingrich said. "I'm the only conservative who realistically has a chance to be the nominee. So any vote for Santorum or Perry, in effect, is a vote to allow Romney to become the nominee, because we've got to bring conservatives together in order to stop him."

Gingrich has struggled to regain traction after fourth-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire deflated his once-surging campaign. But the former Speaker hopes that the first Southern primary could provide an opening, especially if Romney makes an unexpected stumble. Still, the former Massachusetts governor holds a commanding double-digit lead over Gingrich in the latest polls out of the Palmetto State, and support among strong conservatives seems split among the remaining candidates.

"The challenge to me is to convince conservatives to come home and have a single candidate on Saturday, and I'm going to work very hard over the next four days to do that," Gingrich said.

That reality has left Gingrich hoping to differentiate himself from the remainder of the field, abandoning a strategy where he and Santorum had largely worked in concert to tag-team Romney and other front-runners.

"Rick is a very good friend of mine and he's a nice man," Gingrich said. "He lost his state for reelection by the largest margin in the history of Pennsylvania. There is no evidence that he could put together a national majority."

In comments to supporters in Myrtle Beach yesterday, Gingrich said that not voting for him would lead the party to settle for a more centrist candidate.

“If you vote for Sen. Santorum, in effect, you’re functionally voting for Gov. Romney to be the nominee. The only way to stop Mitt Romney, for all practical purposes, is to vote for Newt Gingrich. It’s a fact. It’s a mathematical fact," Gingrich said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"Any conservative who votes for anyone but Newt helps elect a moderate as the nominee," Gingrich added.

He also insinuated he would be better at relaying an evangelical message on behalf of the party, in another knock on Santorum.

"Evangelical voters would like to have a nominee that will win a general election, and somebody who set the all-time Pennsylvania record for the size of their defeat has a harder case to make as to why they could be elected," Gingrich said.