Gingrich: Ala., Miss. look "pretty good"

(CBS News) - Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich sounded cautiously optimistic about upcoming primaries in the South. The former House Speaker said "the odds are pretty good" that he will win two Southern states - Alabama and Mississippi - that will hold primaries on Tuesday.

On CBS News' "Face the Nation," Gingrich said, "I think they're states we're going to do very well in." Tuesday's contests are crucial for Gingrich's Southern state strategy, which he says will carry him to the Republican convention in Tampa.

"I think the odds are pretty good that we're going to win" in both states, Gingrich told host Bob Schieffer, but he said he has no plans to leave the race, regardless of what happens Tuesday.

"I'm committed to going all the way to Tampa," he said.

In response to statements by Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee who said this year's long Republican primary has him "very worried" about the Republicans' chances in November, Gingrich said Senator McCain has it "backwards."

"It didn't seem to hurt Obama to have a vigorous contest," Gingrich told Schieffer, referring to the long 2008 Democratic primary between candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The campaign of former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and his Super PAC supporters have been calling on Gingrich to drop out of the race, saying he is spoiling Santorum's chances of beating Mitt Romney.

Gingrich has rejected the idea, and on "Face the Nation," he said he stands in stark difference to Santorum.

"On economic issues I am much, much more conservative then Senator Santorum," Gingrich said. "As leader of the House we balanced the budget for 4 straight years; as a member of the Senate leadership team, Senator Santorum ran up a $1.7 trillion in deficits and had to raise the debt ceiling five times."

"I represent the Reagan tradition of very large ideas. He represents being a team player on a Washington team. It's not the same kind of conservatism," Gingrich said.

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.