By Josh Lederman - 03/14/12 03:40 AM EDT
Newt Gingrich offered no signs of an impending exit from the GOP race Tuesday after losing primaries in both Mississippi and Alabama.
Reprising his election-night routine of presenting an electoral loss as actually a win, Gingrich claimed a success over Mitt Romney, who came in third - behind Gingrich, who took second in both states, and Santorum, who scored two wins.
Pressure has been mounting on Gingrich to drop out of the race following a string of losses, poor fundraising and a third-place standing in the delegate count. Before Tuesday’s contests, Gingrich had won just two states – both in the South. Political observers said a loss in both southern states up for grabs Tuesday would be nearly fatal for his White House ambitions and would ramp up calls for him to clear the way for Santorum to challenge Romney from the right.
Gingrich congratulated Santorum on what he called “a great campaign,” but the former House Speaker made clear on Tuesday that his campaign will continue for some time.
“We’ll have four or five days of the news media and they’ll say, ‘Why won’t Gingrich quit,’” Gingrich said. “The biggest challenge will be raising money, because we came in second, which isn’t as much as we wanted.”
Those frank acknowledgements could be part and parcel to Gingrich’s candid manner, but could also signal that his campaign is open to other alternatives now that the delegate math and the momentum both seem to be eluding his grasp. Gingrich highlighted the emphasis he gave while traveling the South to gas prices, a move that led some observers to speculate he was positioning himself for a possible Cabinet post.
“I will always remember campaigning in Mississippi and Alabama, because it was here, in the last week, that the issue of gasoline and energy was crystallized,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich said he had hoped to win, but that he would still pick up delegates in the proportional contests, and that he wouldn’t leave the Deep South empty handed.
He reserved his strongest words for Romney, whose weakness against President Obama on the issue of healthcare he called one reason he was insisting on staying in the race.
“If you’re the front-runner, and you keep coming in third, you’re not much of a front-runner,” he said.
Gingrich is scheduled to hold two events Wednesday in Illinois, which will hold its contest on March 20. Polls show Gingrich trailing Romney and Santorum by double digits in Illinois.