Santorum to Newt: Please go away

Updated
 
Santorum to Newt: Please go away
Santorum to Newt: Please go away
Associated Press

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the only notable GOP official to switch his support from Mitt Romney to Rick Santorum, made an interesting observation last night: if the race for the Republican nomination were a two-person contest, Romney would probably be in big trouble.

It’s speculative, of course, but that’s not an unreasonable assessment. Romney won very narrow contests in Ohio yesterday and Michigan last week, and in both cases, it’s likely the results would have been reversed if it were a Romney vs. Santorum affair.

It’s a point that is not lost on the former senator’s campaign.

Rick Santorum’s campaign is calling on conservatives to pressure Newt Gingrich to abandon his bid for the White House, a senior adviser told reporters tonight.

Senior campaign strategist John Brabender said the key for the campaign going forward will be creating an opportunity to challenge Mitt Romney one-on-one, though Brabender maintained the Santorum campaign would not directly call on Gingrich to drop out of the race.

“We’re never going to call on anybody to get out, but what we are calling is on Tea Party supporters and conservatives is to rally behind the only candidate that has demonstrated over and over again that he’s the one who can compete against Mitt Romney,” Brabender said.

Brabender added, “The real key right now is, can we get an opportunity to get a one-on-one shot with Mitt Romney.”

Gingrich, incidentally, easily won the primary in his home state of Georgia yesterday, but in the other 10 Super Tuesday contests, he came in third in three states, dead last in six states, and didn’t even qualify for the ballot in the other.

Even the most ardent Gingrich backer would be hard pressed to look at the results, following last-place finishes in Michigan and Washington last week, and argue that the former Speaker is well positioned for the road ahead.

It led Nate Silver to note this morning, “By far the most interesting question about the GOP race (perhaps the only interesting one) is whether Gingrich will drop out.” By all appearances, that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon – a senior aide to the former Speaker told NBC News last night that as far as far as Team Gingrich is concerned, it’s Santorum who is “splitting” the vote.

So, what does Gingrich actually want out of this process? He seems to have a deep, personal disgust for Romney, and the longer Gingrich stays in the race, the more it helps the former governor. Whether that’s enough to spur Gingrich to step aside will be one of the dominant questions over the next several weeks.

Santorum to Newt: Please go away

Updated