Under Pressure, Santorum Huddles With Conservatives

Tumbling in the polls and under increasing pressure to abandon his White House campaign, Republican Rick Santorum huddled with conservative leaders and aides on Thursday to plot strategy.

Among the options on the table: a plan that would involve Newt Gingrich dropping out of the Republican race and backing Santorum in a late effort to unite conservatives and prevent Mitt Romney from clinching the party's presidential nomination.

The meeting, in a Virginia suburb of Washington, came two days after Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, won three primaries to widen his lead over Santorum in the state-by-state race for the Republican nomination.

Discussing Santorum's exit from the race was not the point of the meeting, the source said, adding that the talks were "by no stretch of the imagination" aimed at persuading Santorum to step aside and leave Romney to concentrate on the November 6 election against Democratic President Barack Obama.

However, the talks did include the question of whether former House speaker Gingrich would stay in the race or drop out and back fellow conservative Santorum.

"It's clear that Santorum also has his eye on (running for president in) 2016, and the question is whether he wants to bow out now or go to Pennsylvania," O'Connell said.

Read more from Sam Youngman and Alistair Bell at Reuters

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published this page in In The News 2012-04-05 20:00:00 -0400
Analysis & Political Strategy