Santorum still not ready to endorse

Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks at the National Rifle Association convention in St. Louis, Friday, April 13, 2012. AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks at the National Rifle Association convention in St. Louis, Friday, April 13, 2012.
AP Photo/Michael Conroy

(CBS News) Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Monday sounded no closer to endorsing Mitt Romney than when he dropped out of the presidential race last week, telling supporters on a conference call that he hasn't even had a chance to speak to his onetime rival.

Santorum said he has talked with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "I haven't had a chance yet to talk to Governor Romney, but we'll be talking to both of them and we're going to go out and do what we believe is in the best interest of our country," Santorum said in the call, which had at least 4,000 participants at its peak, according to host and Santorum aide Mark Rodgers.

To crystallize the point that he isn't going to make an endorsement in the immediate future, Santorum told his supporters that it was entirely up to them who to vote for in next week's Pennsylvania primary. "I haven't supported any candidate at this point," he said.

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When Rodgers, acting as the call's host, asked him in jest whether he would un-suspend his campaign if enough people voted for him in Pennsylvania, Santorum offered little in the way of advice. "I would just say this: the best thing that they can do is stay tuned, and we really are serious about making sure that the issues that we brought up during this campaign are continued going forward," he said.

Throughout the call, the former Pennsylvania senator alluded to having plans to build a conservative movement outside of the framework of the presidential election in order to make sure his message is still heard.

He said he was working through ideas for a "structure to promote these ideas" and promised an announcement in the next week or two. As for delegates, those may not be released even if he does back another GOP candidate.

"We still have delegates, many of them committed, and we want to make sure that our delegates get a chance to go to the convention and have a say," Santorum said.

Reflecting once again on the reasons he exited the race, Santorum tried to downplay the importance of his financial troubles - a "very, very small piece of the story," he said - but suggested for the first time that his campaign had actively, and unsuccessfully, tried to convince other candidates to drop out and support him.

"We sought to get a coalition of the rest of the conservatives in the race to join in, the other candidates who were still in the race; we solicited them to see whether they might be willing to join our team and help us be successful in a coalition of conservatives," Santorum said. It was almost certainly a reference to Gingrich, the other candidate considered to be a more conservative alternative to Romney.

Santorum's commitment to his cause comes amid warnings from the likes of Iowa conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats, who recently told the Sioux City Journal that the base of the Republican Party may stay home on Election Day.

But that doesn't seem to worry Santorum. In the meantime, he's been spending time with his family. He was joined on the call by his wife, Karen, and his three-year-old daughter Bella - who was hospitalized shortly before he dropped out -- could be heard in the background as she ate dinner. And like so many Americans, Santorum spent the weekend finishing his taxes.

  • Rebecca Kaplan On Twitter»

    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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