Gingrich: GOP rivals agree, time to focus on Obama

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at a town hall meeting at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, La., Tuesday, March 20, 2012.
AP Photo/Kita Wright
Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich
AP Photo/Kita Wright

Updated 9:00 p.m. ET

(CBS News) Newt Gingrich, confirming he met with Mitt Romney last week in New Orleans, said on Friday that he and his rivals in the Republican presidential contest are talking about ways to make sure the eventual nominee can beat President Obama.

"We have all three been talking with each other all during the process because we all three understand that the No. 1 mission is to defeat Barack Obama. So I talked to (Rick) Santorum recently and I think that's just a part of the process," Gingrich said in an interview with WTMJ radio in Milwaukee.

"We are in the same party," the former House speaker said. While each man would like to win the nomination, he added, "in the end we are people that want to make sure the Republican Party candidate is capable of defeating a guy that we think would be a disaster to reelect, and I think you also see us focusing more and more attention on Obama."

A growing number of party VIPs, including former President George H.W. Bush, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Jim DeMint of South Carolina, have been urging that the primary season come to an end. The former president said explicitly on Thursday that front-runner Romney's rivals need to know "when to fold 'em."

Gingrich has won only two primaries and has sunk into last place in several national and state polls. His comments suggested that while he is not ready yet to quit the race, he is heeding the message that it's time to stop attacking Romney, whose image has deteriorated during a divisive primary season.

"I think what we've analyzed is, I do better when I focus on Barack Obama. It's a simple truth and therefore I'm focusing on Barack Obama," Gingrich told reporters during a stop at his Green Bay, Wis., headquarters. "Turns out to be the most effective thing for me to do."

As he hosted a tailgate gathering near Lambeau Field, the home of the Green Bay Packers, Gingrich said he thinks he can positively influence the party's platform at the convention.

"While I am committed to party unity, I think it ought to be party unity for a purpose, with a platform that matters and with ideas that enable us to say to the American people, 'If you hire us, we're not just anti-Obama, we are pro-success for America and here are ideas that will make America successful."

Asked if he and Romney made any kind of arrangement or deal at their meeting, Gingrich said no. "My whole point is we talk regularly. The three of us were together when we did the Mike Huckabee Show recently and we chatted for a while," he said, referring to a March 3 jobs forum in Ohio that Huckabee conducted for his Fox News program. "We are all beginning to focus on how do we make sure this fall that we beat Obama."

During a late morning event at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, Gingrich was asked how long he plans to stay in the race. "I think we're working 'til Romney gets a majority," he said, referring to the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. "In the meantime, he has to earn the majority."

He said that at their meeting in Louisiana, he and Romney talked about "Defeating Obama. Same thing I talked to Santorum about."