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Santorum, conservative leaders, focus on getting Gingrich out of race

Alice Stewart, the press secretary for the Santorum campaign, talks about the GOP candidate's strategy.

 

Rick Santorum met with several conservative leaders at home in Virginia, sources close to the Santorum campaign confirms to NBC News.

One of the major goals -- how to get Newt Gingrich out of the race and get his delegates to line up behind Santorum instead.

The meeting, the source said, was “called by conservative leaders to see how to get everyone to coalesce around Rick. Gingrich is a big part of that … that’s a huge part of it.”

Santorum spokeswoman Alic Stewart first confirmed the news on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports and said the goal of the meeting, called by the conservatives leaders, was stopping Mitt Romney.

"What I can say is we were approached by conservative leaders – a group of conservative leaders - who say now is the time for conservatives to rally together, get behind the right person that is going to be able to stop Mitt Romney," Stewart said. "That’s what the conservatives need to do."

The conservative leaders are trying to “find a way to stop Mitt Romney,” the source said. Santorum and Gingrich have “met a couple times,” but there’s no indication Gingrich would get out at this point or endorse.

The Gingrich campaign confirmed to NBC's Alex Moe that Santorum and Gingrich had met over the last couple of weeks, but, stressed that there is no chance Gingrich will exit the race and encourage his delegates to vote for Santorum.

Santorum "should have thought about that during the primaries," Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond told Moe, "and Newt is not dropping out and handing him our delegates."

He added, "Newt has not agreed to any alliances, and he is going to continue to move forward with his candidacy, and it is Sen. Santorum's decision alone if he wants to continue his candidacy."

There was no discussion -- or encouragement -- at the meeting today of Santorum to drop out, the source said. And talk of Santorum rethinking before Pennsylvania is silly, the source said.

“We’re going to Pennsylvania,” the source insisted. “He’s home for Easter.”

Politico first reported of a meeting with conservatives today.