Despite losses, Gingrich vows to stay in the race

Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at his primary night election rally on Tuesday, March 13, 2012, in Birmingham, Ala.
AP Photo/Butch Dill
Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at his primary night election rally on Tuesday, March 13, 2012, in Birmingham, Ala.
AP Photo/Butch Dill

Despite back-to-back primary losses in the Alabama and Mississippi primaries Tuesday night, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says he has no plans to drop out - even while he acknowledged there will be calls for him to do so in the coming days.

Speaking to supporters in Birmingham after the polls closed, Gingrich was resolute about his intentions to stay in the race: "Obviously, we'd like to have come in first," he said. But, he noted, "because this is proportional representation, we're going to leave Alabama and Mississippi with a substantial number of delegates, increasing our total going towards Tampa."

"I emphasize going to Tampa, because one of the things tonight proved is that the elite media's effort to convince the nation that Mitt Romney is inevitable just collapsed," he continued. "If you're the frontrunner and you keep coming in third, you're not much of a frontrunner."

Full Alabama results
Full Mississippi results

Gingrich has recently focused his campaign efforts on winning contests in the South. Last week, the candidate canceled campaign stops in Kansas in order to zero in on Tuesday's contests Mississippi in Alabama.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week, Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said Gingrich had to win both of Tuesday's primaries in order to remain credible.

"Whoever said that should be flogged," Hammond joked to reporters Tuesday night, when asked about his past remarks.

Alabama exit poll
Mississippi exit poll

Nevertheless, Gingrich is likely to face increased pressure from the right to bow out of the race as Santorum racks up wins in Southern states. Many argue that Santorum could have also beat Romney in crucial contests like Michigan and Ohio if Gingrich had stepped aside.

"Newt has given it a great run but Rick Santorum has earned a mano a mano shot at Mitt Romney," said Republican consultant Keith Appell in an email Tuesday night. "Santorum has demonstrated clear strength in the Midwest, West and South and he has earned the opportunity to take on Romney in a two-man race."

Santorum has not formally called on Gingrich to exit the race, but his campaign has made clear that it believes the candidate would benefit greatly from the former House speaker's departure.

When asked by CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes on Tuesday how he thought the evening's results would change the race, Santorum suggested that the field might soon become more narrow.

"As I've been saying, this adventure's going to be a two person race, and when it does, the conservative will win," he said.

Gingrich, for his part, acknowledged that he is likely to hear calls to drop out - but he reminded supporters on Tuesday that he had heard similar calls before.

"I want to tell you just a second, what will become a challenge is we'll now have three or four days the news media, and they'll all say, why doesn't Gingrich quit? These are the same people, by the way, who said last June that I was dead," he said. "You know, they recycle this every six weeks. And the biggest challenge will be raising money because we came in second, which isn't as much as we wanted, and we will have gotten delegates. We'll get -- between Santorum and myself, we will get over two thirds of the delegates, and the so-called frontrunner will get less than one-third of the delegates. But they'll have all this talk."

With an estimated 450 delegates under his belt so far, Romney remains well ahead of his rivals in the race to the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination. Santorum has 213, Gingrich has 117 and Ron Paul has 40, according to CBS News estimates.

CBS News delegate estimates
Full GOP primary results