EXCLUSIVE: Gingrich-Perry Pre-Convention Ticket in the Works

Sources close to the Gingrich campaign say preliminary "what-if" conversations are underway that could lead to a Gingrich-Perry ticket being announced prior to the  Republican National Convention at the end of August.

Gingrich insiders hope forming a predetermined ticket with Perry will unite the evangelical, Tea Party and very conservative voters that make up the core of the GOP.

As discussions got underway, a spokesman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry released a statement saying, "Gov. Perry thinks Newt Gingrich is the strongest conservative to debate and defeat President Obama and truly overhaul Washington. The speculation is humbling but premature."

Floating Perry as a runningmate two days before Alabama and Mississippi could energize conservatives or turn them off.

A senior aide to Rick Santorum called it a desperate hail mary to create buzz ahead of contests in Alabama and Mississippi Tuesday.

After learning of the Gingrich-Perry ticket discussions, the Romney camp said it preferred to focus on the Mississippi and Alabama delegate race, noting that they expect to win about a third of the delegates in a three-way split with Santorum and Gingrich.

Gingrich faces high expectations of his own making in Alabama and Mississippi this coming Tuesday.

Prior to winning Georgia, which Gingrich said was necessary to remain "credible," Gingrich and his team repeatedly said it would take winning Alabama and Mississippi to  restore momentum and fundraising capacity.  Newt 2012 is barely in the black.

Gingrich in recent days shifted gears and began saying regardless of what happens Tuesday in the deep South, he will continue to campaign against his rivals until the convention in Tampa.