Newt Gingrich claimed on Tuesday that he would be “virtually guaranteed” a victory in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary if fellow conservatives Rick Santorum and Rick Perry agreed to drop out of the campaign.
“From the standpoint of the conservative movement, consolidating into a Gingrich candidacy would, in fact, virtually guarantee a victory on Saturday," he told reporters in Florence, S.C.
But Gingrich acknowledged the decision is for the two Ricks to make. “I'd be delighted if either Perry or Santorum wanted to do that," he said.
Gingrich is running second to Mitt Romney in the Palmetto State. He has already acknowledged that a win for the former Massachusetts governor would virtually lock up the nomination following victories in the first two voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
He told a town hall meeting in Florence, “If you look at the polling, I am the only conservative who realistically has a chance to be the nominee.
“Any vote toward Perry or Santorum, in effect, is a vote to allow Romney to become the nominee.
“I actually know how to set up a conservative alternative to Obama in a way that will be very, very effective and very strategic. And I don't think Santorum can do any of that. Again, it's not because he isn't a nice guy. He doesn't have any of the knowledge for how to do something like this."
But former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum made it clear he will go on to South Carolina despite his disappointing fifth-place finish in New Hampshire. Santorum had finished eight votes behind Romney in Iowa. Gingrich ended in fourth place in both contests.
"I'm a friend of Newt's. He's a good man, but the idea that someone who is 0 and 2 in races is that I am hurting him," said Santorum. ”Yeah I'm hurting him. I'm beating him.”
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