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Rick Santorum: If Mitt Romney Had 1,144 Delegates, I Would 'Without A Doubt' Drop Out

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WASHINGTON -- Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said on Sunday that he would drop out of the race if Mitt Romney gathered the 1,144 delegates needed to lock down the Republican nomination.

"If Governor Romney gets that required number, then without a doubt, if he's at that number, we'll step aside," Santorum told Savannah Guthrie on NBC's "Meet the Press." "But right now, he's not there. He's not even close to it. Like I said, less than half of the delegates have been selected. We've got a long way to go. We're going to fight to make sure we can win."

A number of Republicans have called for Santorum to end his primary bid so that the GOP can begin focusing on the general election and the effort to defeat President Barack Obama. But so far, the former Pennsylvania senator has refused to budge, saying he is planning to continue until the Republican National Convention in August if neither he nor Romney wins the required number of delegates -- which would mean a long primary and a possible floor fight to pick the nominee.

Romney has an estimated 554 delegates so far, while Santorum has an estimated 241, according to CBS News.

Neither candidate will be able to pick up enough delegates in Tuesday's primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia to come close to 1,144 delegates, meaning the race will likely extend until at least the end of April, when the next primaries take place.

Santorum said Sunday that extending the nomination process could help the Republican Party's chances of beating Obama.

"Four years ago, we had a nominee in March. How did that work for us, when we didn't have the right nominee?" Santorum said. "Right now we have to get the right candidate. I would make the argument, the shorter this campaign in the general election, the better the advantage for the Republican nominee."

He also challenged Guthrie on the idea that he should drop out because Romney has won more endorsements. He said the endorsements for Romney are more about saying "we need to end" the nomination process than about expressing strong support for the former Massachusetts governor.

"Everyone is entitled to a mistake in their life. You know, Rubio and Ryan are pretty young. They'll recover from it,"
Santorum said, smiling and referencing the Romney endorsements by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

"You think it's a mistake?" Guthrie asked.

"Well, of course, I think anybody who endorses my opponent is [making] a mistake," he said. "I think they should be endorsing me."

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