Santorum meets with conservatives to discuss future; dropping out not on agenda

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum addresses supporters in Hollidaysburg, Pa., Wednesday, April 4, 2012.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Rick Santorum
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

(CBS News) -- Rick Santorum is meeting on Friday with conservative leaders at their request to discuss a possible way forward for his beleaguered presidential campaign, two sources confirmed to National Journal/CBS News. One source, however, emphasized the meeting was not called to ask Santorum to drop out.

The sources said the meeting, in the Washington D.C. area, is to discuss a range of possible options to combat front-runner Mitt Romney, with a combined Santorum-Newt Gingrich ticket being one possibility under consideration.

Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley refused to confirm or deny to confirm reports of the meeting, which was first reported in a tweet by Time's Mark Halperin.

Asked if he shared Gingrich's belief that the two men, plus Rep. Ron Paul, should work to stop Romney from winning outright so they can "see what happens" at an open convention, Gidley said.

"All I can say is we are committed to pursuing any path that leads to Barack Obama's defeat in the fall," he added.

This is not the first time conservative leaders have met to discuss how to stop Romney. In January, they joined evangelical leaders in Texas to settle on a single, conservative alternative to the former Massachusetts senator, deciding to rally around Santorum.

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