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Gingrich: A Vote for Santorum or Perry is a Vote for Romney

Florence, S.C. - Newt Gingrich told supporters Tuesday that if conservatives consolidated their votes, they could decisively prevent Mitt Romney from securing the Republican nomination.

"Look at the polling, I'm the only candidate who realistically has the chance to become the nominee, so, any vote for Santorum or Perry is in effect a vote to allow Romney to become the nominee," Gingrich told a crowd of about 125 people gathered in an art gallery.

But former Senator Rick Santorum, who effectively tied for first in Iowa and narrowly edged out Gingrich for fourth place in New Hampshire, has indicated he has no desire to exit the race.

Asked by reporters about why voters should choose him over Santorum, Gingrich said Rick is a "good friend" and a "nice man," but "he lost his state for re-election by the largest margin in the history of Pennsylvania.

Gingrich said there's no evidence Santorum has the experience to put together a majority in the Senate, which in addition to a majority in the House, would be necessary to repeal legislation put forth by Obama.

"I think you can make a pretty good case I actually know how to design a national campaign," Gingrich said. "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. Because, again, it's not because he's not a nice guy. But he doesn't have any of the knowledge for how to do something of this scale."

Asked if he thought Santorum should drop out, the former House Speaker said he'd be "delighted" if Santorum endorsed him but said he was "respectful that Rick has every right to run for as long as he feels that that's what he should do."

Gingrich, however, did suggest it might be better for conservatives overall if Santorum dropped out."From the stand point of the conservative movement, consolidating into a Gingrich candidacy would in fact virtually guarantee victory on Saturday," he said. "And I'd be, I'd be delighted if either Perry or Santorum want to do that. They have to make that decision. In the interim I have to make the argument that the one effective vote if you want to stop a moderate from being the nominee is to vote for Newt Gingrich."

To enthusiastic crowds, Gingrich sharpened his attacks against President Obama. Continuing to characterize President Obama as a "food stamp president," Gingrich called for unemployment checks to be linked to training programs. "The idea of paying 99 weeks for nothing is perfect ‘Obamaism' because it creates dependency. We want to create independency," Obama said.

A questioner said that he's been looking for a candidate with "fire in his belly" ready to "bloody Obama's nose. Gingrich said, "Well let me say first of all, I want to argue with you about the analogy. I don't want to bloody his nose, I want to knock him out." The audience clapped.

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