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Santorum aide: Campaign has already discussed 2016 run

Hogan Gidley, Santorum's national communications director, was asked by MSNBC's Chris Matthews whether the Santorum team was already considering a 2016 run.

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"I'm not going to say we haven't talked about it, of course, you look and you say what are you going to do in the future … a lot of people said 'prepare for 2016,' " Gidley said.

Some political observers have hypothesized that Santorum chose to exit the race before the Pennsylvania primary to preserve his standing in the party — and avoid an embarrassing home-state loss. 

Gidley also said he didn't know if presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney was a conservative.

He told Matthews "I don't know" if Romney is a true conservative, noting "he hasn't" yet won the nomination.

Gidley's highest praise for Romney might have been calling the candidate "fine," and he peppered his responses with biting criticism, including noting that Romney "didn't even run for reelection [for governor of Massachusetts] because the polls were so bad, he quit."

"He's more conservative than Barack Obama, and that's what we're all going to have to come to grips with," Gidley said.

Matthews also noted that implicit in preparing for a 2016 run was the assumption Romney would lose his November battle with President Obama. Gidley downplayed that idea, but without much enthusiasm.

The Santorum aide also said he didn't know if Romney could win a campaign based on positive messaging.

"I don't know that he was necessarily positive, he didn't run one positive ad all cycle," Gidley said.

The interview was a clear sign of continued raw feelings between the Romney and Santorum camps. 

Romney is looking to bridge that gap, reportedly asking Santorum for a meeting to earn his endorsement. But Newt Gingrich is also making an explicit play for Santorum's pledged delegates, hoping that they could boost his effort to derail Romney's nomination.

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