Newt Gingrich long touted himself as the candidate who would play strongest in the South. After losses in Alabama and Mississippi to Rick Santorum on Tuesday, that no longer rings true.
Still, Gingrich insisted Tuesday evening that he will remain in the race -- and foil rival Mitt Romney.
"We can argue later on whether Santorum's the right person to nominate or Gingrich is, or something else may happen, but I think phase one has to be" taking out Romney, Gingrich told Fox News' Bret Baier shortly after his concession speech.
Gingrich finished second in Mississippi and, as of midnight, was in a near-tie in Alabama with Romney. He said that he expects to get a good number of delegates as the campaign grinds on and that he will grow stronger moving forward.
He came nowhere close to counting himself out, but Gingrich spent significant time during his speech, and on Fox News later, discussing how his remaining in the race could hurt Romney -- barely going after Santorum and instead talking about how they could work together to hurt the "Massachusetts moderate."
Later, a senior Gingrich adviser floated the idea of a Santorum-Gingrich ticket, suggesting the campaign may be weaker than aides let on.
"Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum would make a powerful team against Barack Obama," a senior Gingrich adviser told The Huffington Post in an e-mail. "They have the capability to deny Gov. Romney the nomination."
Romney, though, isn't considered the one hurt by Gingrich remaining in the race. More likely, Gingrich pulls conservative Republican support from Santorum, who said earlier Tuesday that he is making it "hard for me to win those states." Exit polling from Alabama and Mississippi showed those identifying as very conservative largely split between Gingrich and Santorum.
The Santorum campaign came close to calling for Gingrich to drop out earlier in the day, although it was quickly explained the remark as a joke.
Still, Gingrich insisted Tuesday that "there is no pressure" for him to leave the race. He said he and Santorum are helping take delegates from Romney, weakening him generally. When asked by Baier whether he thinks Romney has the character to be president, Gingrich paused, and merely said he would support him over President Barack Obama.
He had kinder words for Santorum on Tuesday, beginning his speech in Birmingham by congratulating his opponent for his wins and hard work.
Gingrich has at least one prominent conservative supporter for staying in the race. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has not endorsed a candidate, said just before Santorum was declared both states' winner that Gingrich should stay in, whatever the results.
"What [the loss] will do is perhaps put pressure on Newt Gingrich even though, quite frankly, I don't think Newt ought to pull out just because he doesn't win these two states," Huckabee, who ran for the GOP nomination in 2008, said on Fox Business Network. "It's just too tight, and no one has 1,144 delegates."
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