By Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times –
He may have signaled that he was considering an end to his presidential bid, but Newt Gingrich plans to continue Wednesday on a multi-day sprint through North Carolina that involves nearly two dozen events for Gingrich and his wife Callista.
The former House Speaker will throw out the first pitch in a college baseball game, visit local GOP gatherings, and, of course, fit in a visit to a zoo. But on Tuesday night, when presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney swept five primary contests, Gingrich gave the clearest signal that he may not continue his campaign until the GOP convention in August, contradicting what he had been saying for months.
“I want you to know that over the next few days we’re going to look realistically at where we’re at but I also want to do that as somebody who’s a unifier and somebody who’s realistic,” he told supporters in Concord, N.C., Tuesday night. “And so I want you to know we’re going to be here through the week but we are going to think carefully about how we can be the most helpful to this country and how we can make sure, one, that Barack Obama is a one-term president, period, and two, we want to make sure that we send the best strongest possible signal to Tampa that we want a conservative platform, and we want the values that go back to Goldwater and to Reagan to be fully represented.”
Gingrich also lauded Romney for his five-state sweep. It was the most conciliatory he had ever been to Romney and quite a contrast from his typical combative posture on nights when he has lost contests.
The same change of tone was evident in a Tuesday interview CNN conducted with Rick Santorum, who dropped his presidential bid earlier this month. While the former Pennsylvania senator declined to explicitly endorse Romney, he essentially told host Piers Morgan that such a nod was in the works.
“You can call it whatever you want,” Santorum said. “It’s very clear he’s going to be the Republican nominee, and I’m going to be for the Republican nominee and we’re going to do everything we can to defeat Barack Obama.”
Beyond their shared desire to see a Republican beat Obama, both Santorum and Gingrich have more basic concerns — millions of dollars in campaign debt, a topic that is likely to be broached as each campaign negotiates with Romney about offering their endorsement.
Santorum, whose campaign has nearly $2 million in debt and has been emailing fundraising pleas to his supporters, said he would meet with Romney’s advisers on Wednesday, and that he and his wife Karen expected to meet with Romney within two weeks.
Gingrich has more than $4 million in debt and has sold his email list of supporters to raise some funds. His plans are uncertain after planned visits to North Carolina through Friday; he is expected to meet with donors in the meantime. If the candidate decides to drop out, such a move is not expected to happen before Sunday, he indicated after his speech Tuesday night, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.