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After string of losses, Gingrich hints at an exit

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich greets supporters at an election rally in Concord, N.C., Tuesday, April 24, 2012. AP Photo/Chuck Burton

(CBS News) CONCORD, N.C. - Newt Gingrich on Tuesday hinted at a possible departure soon from the GOP presidential race, describing his upcoming role heading into the Republican convention in Tampa as that of a citizen rather than a candidate.

Following a nearly 30-point loss to presumptive nominee Mitt Romney in the Delaware primary, a winner-take-all event that Gingrich said he had to win, the former House speaker delivered a quasi-concession speech to around 100 supporters at the Vintage Motor Club, maintaining that he'll continue on with his North Carolina campaign schedule through the end of the week.

"Over the next few days, we're going to look realistically at where we are at," Gingrich said, with his wife, Callista, at his side. "So we want you to know that as citizens, we are going to be right there standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you, and that as we think through about how we can best be effective citizens over the next week or two, we are going to rely on you for help and advice."

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Noticeably restrained from his usual firebrand demeanor, Gingrich called on conservatives to coalesce behind Romney if the former Massachusetts governor secures the nomination.


"I want you all to understand that Gov. Romney is going to have a very good night," Gingrich said. "And it is a night that he has worked hard for, for six years. And that if he does end up as the nominee, I think every conservative in the country has to be committed to defeating Barack Obama--let's be very clear about this."

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Asked by reporters about his timeline for making his exit official, Gingrich indicated that he wouldn't make an announcement before Sunday. Speaking later with a supporter, Gingrich said, "As a citizen, you can have all of my ideas on a regular basis - I'm not going to back off at all."

Romney swept the five states holding primaries on Tuesday: Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island. He is all but certain to win the GOP nomination once he accumulates the 1,144 delegates he needs. To date, Gingrich has won just two states, including his home state of Georgia. But he has insisted on staying in the race although his campaign, now largely ignored by the GOP and the media, is more than $4 million in debt.

Primary Results: Connecticut | Delaware | New York | Pennsylvania | Rhode Island
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