The HillTube

Santorum: I'll stay in race until Romney wins 1,144 delegates

Rick Santorum said Sunday he would not drop out of the Republican presidential primary until his rival Mitt Romney captures the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

Santorum’s resolve to stay in the race could push the bitter contest until the Republican nominating convention, scheduled to begin Aug. 27 in Tampa, Fla.

ADVERTISEMENT
“There’s one thing worse than … a convention fight, and that’s picking the wrong candidate, not picking the best candidate to give us the best chance to win,” Santorum said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning.

Romney has 568 delegates while Santorum has 273 and Gingrich has 135, according to a tally by The Associated Press.


Santorum noted that Romney did not drop out of the 2008 Republican presidential primary until Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the party’s nominee four years ago, had amassed more than 700 delegates.

Santorum said he would adopt the standard set by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) in 2008 and step aside if Romney clinched a majority of delegates, but he says that time is a long way into the future.

“If Gov. Romney gets that required number, then we’re without a doubt — if he’s at that number, we’ll step aside. Right now he’s not there. He’s not even close to it. ... We've got a long way to go,” he said.

To defend staying in the race, Santorum noted that fewer than half the GOP delegates have been selected.


RELATED: Pennsylvania could be last stand for Santorum, strategists say


“It’s not the longest of long shots. So many of the delegates who are coming to the convention are unbound delegates,” he said.

Santorum said Republicans would make the same mistake they have in past elections, such as 2008, if they coalesced behind a centrist candidate too early in the race.

“Only one time in the last almost 120 years has a Republican defeated a Democratic incumbent for president. One time. Almost every single time the establishment said, ‘Let’s run a moderate; we have to win by appealing to moderates because we have to get this horrible president out,’” he said.

The one time Republicans knocked off an incumbent Democratic president was in 1980 when the party rallied behind former President Ronald Reagan, whom the GOP establishment initially viewed as an ultra-conservative insurgent.


RELATED: Santorum supports Walker in recall fight


Romney’s support among leading members of the GOP establishment has gained momentum in recent days. 

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on Sunday urged the party to unify behind Romney. 

“It is absolutely apparent that it’s in the best interest of our party at this particular point to get behind the person who is obviously going to be our nominee and to begin to make the case against the president of the United States,” McConnell said of Romney on CNN.

Santorum, however, downplayed Romney’s recent endorsements. He said that Republicans picked a nominee early in 2008 and Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama battled until June.

He argued that a longer primary campaign and shorter general-election campaign would neutralize President Obama’s expected campaign fundraising advantage.

“The shorter this campaign and the general election, the better the advantage for the Republican nominee, because you neutralize President Obama’s huge money advantage going into the fall,” he said. “No matter who the candidate is, President Obama is going to have a huge money advantage going into the fall.” 

More in Presidential races

Santorum: Trump 'qualified' to be president

Read more »