LUTZ, Fla. -- With just one full day of campaigning left until the Florida primary and polls indicating that Mitt Romney has substantially widened his lead in the Sunshine State, Newt Gingrich told reporters Sunday he is prepared to fight out the Republican presidential nomination all the way to a brokered convention.
"We have no evidence yet that Romney anywhere is coming close to getting a majority and I think when you take all the non-Romney votes, it's very likely that at the convention there will be a non-Romney majority and maybe a very substantial one. My job is to convert that into a Gingrich majority," Gingrich said.
Florida's delegates are pledged as winner-take-all in the primary, meaning whoever wins the vote there gets the state's 50 delegates (reduced from 99 after the state was punished by the Republican National Committee for holding an early primary). Asked whether he was comfortable with the idea of getting no delegates with a second place finish, after previous contests had awarded them proportionally, Gingrich said he wasn’t going to get "involved in an RNC procedural fight."
"I'll play by whatever the rules are that are given to us. I just think it will be very, very clear, increasingly clear over the next few weeks, that this party is not going to nominate somebody who is a pro-abortion, pro gun control, pro tax increase liberal. It's not going to happen," he said.
Some party members have deplored the increasingly heated rhetoric between the Republican candidates but Gingrich argued that a long campaign would not make the party weaker.
"The long campaign of 2008 between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama led them to win the presidency," he said. "There's no reason a long campaign has to be a bad thing. Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush had a long campaign in 1980 … This is a campaign about the future of America and the future of the Republican Party."
Gingrich spoke with reporters after attending a service at Idlewild Baptist Church, which the Catholic said was "tremendous" given that it is Sanctity of Life Sunday; the candidate is scheduled to visit another Baptist church in the afternoon in Jacksonville.
"The case that has been made all weekend among evangelical leaders in Florida is that the only vote that can stop Romney is for Gingrich, and we'll see where we stand probably after the primary here," he told reporters.
While Rick Santorum has lobbied the evangelical community to support him, he was off the trail on Sunday after his youngest daughter Bella was hospitalized. Gingrich, who said it "would be a totally inappropriate time” to ask Santorum to drop out, said he believed the former Pennsylvania senator would secure a "decent vote."
"I have no doubt the two of us are going to collectively outscore Romney," Gingrich added, predicting "a straight-out contest for the next four or five months" between "grassroots Republicans" and an "establishment" he has actively tried to associate with the former Massachusetts governor.