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Santorum still not calling for Gingrich to leave race

 

DELAVAN LAKE, Wisc. -- Despite news of a dramatic cutback in Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign staff, Rick Santorum is still refusing to call for the former House Speaker to leave the race.

"I think it is time for all the Republican candidates to coalesce behind me. You know, let's just have a conservative nominee to take on Barack Obama. Until that time happens, I'm not going to call on anyone to get out," Santorum said Tuesday night.

The former Pennsylvania senator spent the day campaigning through Wisconsin.  As he greeted patrons at restaurant here during his last stop, reporters told him of the reports that Gingrich had cut a third of his paid staff, including his campaign manager.  The news was met with a wince and head shake.

"One of the things I was told very early on in presidential politics is that you run for president as long as the money hangs on," said Santorum.  "Obviously, financially, it's tough. I can certainly understand that. So, I don't know what his plans are. As I've said before, were going to run the race irrespective of who's in and who's out."

Santorum said his campaign has not reached out to Gingrich, but that they "exchanged pleasantries" when they both met with the same group of reporters in Washington, DC on Monday.

Though Santorum has continually refused to call on Gingrich to leave the race, both he and senior staffers have blamed the waning GOP candidate for cutting into his vote totals and preventing a serious challenge to frontrunner Mitt Romney. Senior strategist John  Brabender has in the past openly welcomed Gingrich to be a top voice for Santorum's campaign and has also said they would like to hire his staffers.

But even as a contender fades away, the road continues to be a tough one for Santorum.  Polls show him struggling in the Badger State, where he is being heavily outspent.

He'll spend the majority of the time between now and Tuesday's primary in Wisconsin.