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Santorum camp asking conservatives to pressure Gingrich to drop out

STEUBENVILLE, OH -- Rick Santorum's campaign is calling on conservatives to pressure Newt Gingrich to abandon his bid for the White House, a senior adviser told reporters tonight.

Senior campaign strategist John Brabender said the key for the campaign going forward will be creating an opportunity to challenge Mitt Romney one-on-one, though Brabender maintained the Santorum campaign would not directly call on Gingrich to drop out of the race.

Mark Humphrey / AP

See pictures from around America as 11 states hold contests that will award a combined 424 delegates in the Republican primary.

"We're never going to call on anybody to get out, but what we are calling is on Tea Party supporters and conservatives is to rally behind the only candidate that has demonstrated over and over again that he's the one who can compete against Mitt Romney," Brabender said.

"The real key right now is, can we get an opportunity to get a one-on-one shot with Mitt Romney," he said. "What we found is, Gingrich did a nice job in his home state, but I don't even think he had a second place anywhere else ... It's time for conservatives to say 'Look, we're going to rally behind one candidate, Rick Santorum."

Speaking to reporters in the high school gym where Santorum spoke just moments earlier, Brabender declared that no matter what the final result in Ohio, it already has been a bad night for Mitt Romney's campaign.

"All I know is after spending nearly $10 million here in Ohio, right now its neck and neck and it's going to be close to a tie, and somebody will win, but not by much.  I don't know how they declare that anything but a disappointment," he said.