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Conservative leader: GOP candidates may need to exit race to stop Romney

Southern Baptist leader Dr. Richard Land said on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" today that social conservatives have been on the phone since Iowa talking about how to get Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry to drop out before it is too late to stop Mitt Romney.

These social conservatives will be meeting in Texas next weekend -- and he said they would be talking to Gingrich and Perry at some point about coming together behind Rick Santorum before it is too late.

He acknowledged, however, that it's unlikely they can persuade them to drop out before South Carolina, which means their effort to unite against Romney could come too late.

"If you took the vote that Santorum got, and you took the vote that Gingrich got and you took the vote that Perry got, and you took the vote that Michele Bachmann got, you would have out-voted Romney two to one in Iowa," Land said.

"But because of the division among the conservative candidates, there is real concern that Romney will win without having to face one concentrated effort of a conservative challenger. And what I've heard over and over again, [in] these discussions, is we don't want to make the same mistake this time that we made with Huckabee in 2008."

Land continued. "People didn't rally around Huckabee as the, you know, social conservative alternative, because they didn't think he could win until it was too late. And McCain had the nomination sewed up. Now it is a little more diverse this time, and we don't need to make the decision as early. What I hear conservatives saying is, 'We need to keep talking about this, and we need to let Gingrich and Santorum and Perry continue to make their case.' But at some point, earlier rather than later, we need to try to unite all of the conservative -- social conservative forces, around one candidate and have this great debate that so many people want to see between the Romney and the non-Romney."