Santorum says he won't be "unrealistic" in Republican nomination race

BROOKFIELD, Wisc. Sat Mar 31, 2012 7:21pm EDT

1 of 5. U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks during a campaign appearance at the Jelly Belly Candy Co in Fairfield, California March 29, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

Related Topics

BROOKFIELD, Wisc. (Reuters) - Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum vowed on Saturday that the race for the Republican nomination is far from over but signaled that he would not be "unrealistic" if the time ever came to step aside for rival Mitt Romney.

Lagging in opinion polls, endorsements and delegates, Santorum nevertheless challenged the Romney camp's assertions that the former Massachusetts governor is the inevitable Republican nominee to face President Barack Obama on November 6.

"They put on the facade of inevitability, and they realize - I realize - this is far from over," Santorum said in an interview with Reuters in Wisconsin.

Endorsements this week from former President George H.W. Bush and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement, have buoyed Romney ahead of Tuesday's Wisconsin Republican presidential primary.

Romney led Santorum by 7 percentage points in an NBC/Marist poll of likely Wisconsin primary voters released on Friday.

Santorum could come under increasing pressure to pull out of the race if he does not win Wisconsin. The conservative former senator also faces a tough set of primaries on April 24, including a serious challenge from Romney in Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania.

Santorum said he would not be unreasonable if Romney built an unassailable lead in the race for the nomination.

"When I feel comfortable that we've done the best we possibly could and there's just no more we can do and this race is, you know, we've run the course, then you know I'm not an unrealistic person," Santorum said.

"I mean if that happens - I don't believe it's going to happen, but if it does happen - you know then we'll face it, we'll cross that bridge. But until that point - less than half the delegates have been voted for - I mean we've got a long way to go in this race," he said.

In a state-by-state battle that began in January, Romney has streaked ahead in the battle to amass the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the party's nomination at its convention in August.

Romney has 571 delegates to Santorum's 264, according to a CNN estimate.

'THEY WANT YOU OUT'

Santorum said he was not paying too much attention to senior Republicans calling on him to step aside and let Romney focus on the fight with Obama in the general election.

"When people say, 'Oh, they want you out,' well none of these people were for me anyway," Santorum said. "And none of these folks represent the values that I bring to the table and have been out there doing what we're doing," he said.

"I take their comments with a grain of salt."

Santorum, while serving in the Senate, made a campaign trip in 2004 in support of President George W. Bush during the New Hampshire primary, but Bush has shied away from endorsing anyone. Bush's father backed Romney this week.

Recalling the New Hampshire trip, Santorum smiled, adding sarcastically: "And of course the Bushes have stood right behind me."

Romney increasingly is turning his attention to criticism of Obama, both as a way to present an air of inevitability about winning his party's nomination and to prepare for the general election in November if he wins the Republican race.

Santorum said Romney's focus on Obama helps him.

"As far as I'm concerned, if he starts turning this into the general election, that's not a bad thing for us. We're going to stay focused on rallying the base of support that we have. We have a strong base in Pennsylvania, obviously. If this thing were over, he wouldn't be spending $4 million here in Wisconsin. I mean if this was inevitable, that wouldn't be happening," Santorum said.

The former senator denied he was staying in the race to be able to bargain later with a victorious Romney for a vice presidential nomination or a Cabinet position.

"I don't want anything. I ... don't ... want ... anything," he said slowly. "I'm serious. Absolutely no interest in doing anything else. I want to make sure we have the best possible candidate to defeat Barack Obama and, just as importantly, make the changes that are necessary in Washington," he said.

(Editing By Alistair Bell and Will Dunham)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (8)
Larry2012 wrote:
Sounds like concession talk to me. Can’t say as many of us will miss him. Don’t like Romney either but the GOP is stuck with him. One wonders if they will ever get it right…but then again, could this all be just another reality show? Or should I say, “reality circus”?

Mar 31, 2012 7:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
cogboy wrote:
great rick! when you pull out, please wipe up, change the sheets and don’t forget to hit the lights…

Mar 31, 2012 7:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
thebruce wrote:
yeah it’s already way too late.

Mar 31, 2012 8:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.