WASHINGTON — Rick Santorum says he's under no pressure to quit the GOP presidential race so conservative voters can coalesce around Newt Gingrich.
The former Pennsylvania senator said on CNN's "State of the Union" this morning that his campaign is building momentum even after a third-place finish in South Carolina. He said he expects to run well in Florida's Jan. 31 primary.
The suggestion that conservatives will have to coalesce to beat former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is "objectively false," Santorum insisted.
Santorum pointed out that he beat Romney in Iowa and that former House Speaker Gingrich "smoked him here in South Carolina."
Santorum said that, although Romney has more campaign money, he has better ideas and message to inspire voters.
What's more, Santorum said he himself may fare better against Gingrich on Florida’s “neutral turf” than in “Newt’s backyard” of South Carolina.
“Leading into Florida yesterday, we were sitting in second place in Florida,” Santorum noted.
Although Santorum observed that “Florida is a tough state for everybody,” he said he sees fertile ground for his own campaign because he’s a “solid conservative."
“I would disagree with Newt that he is the conservative standard bearer,” Santorum said. “He is a very high-risk candidate.”
In a separate interview on ABC’s "This Week," Santorum said he is the logical candidate for voters who aren’t satisfied with Romney or Gingrich.
“A lot of conservatives are very concerned about the choice between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, because in their opinion and in mine, that’s not a choice between a conservative and a moderate,” Santorum said. “It’s a choice between a moderate and an erratic conservative, someone who on a lot of the major issues has been just wrong.”