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Top Republican leaders are telling fading GOP Presidential contender Rick Santorum to get out of the race if he wants any future in the party.
Capitol Hill Blue has learned that Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell top a list of GOP luminaries who have contacted Santorum and told him he needs to get out of the race now.
“The message is clear,” an aide to Boehner says. “Withdraw gracefully and there might be a place for the Senator in the GOP future. Stay in the race and he is dead politically.”
Santorum has vowed to stay in the race all the way to the GOP convention in Tampa in August but campaign insiders say he will reconsider that decision if he loses the primary in his home state of Pennsylvania, the same state that handed him a loss as an incumbent Senator.
Santorum’s once-commanding lead in pre-primary polls have shrunk and some recent polls show GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney pulling ahead.
“Momentum is clearly on Romney’s side,” says GOP media strategist Jan Black. “Santorum is headed in the wrong direction.”
Marc Levy of The Associated Press reported today:
Rick Santorum is as unpopular in Pennsylvania today as he was six years ago when home-state voters kicked him out of the Senate in a rout. That sour public perception may doom his fading chances of sticking around in the GOP presidential race, along with other hurdles that dot his path to a possible, and needed, victory in the April 24 primary.
He failed to heal a rift with fiscal conservatives who had lost confidence in him or reassure party leaders that he could temper his hard-line positions on social issues that repel the moderate and independent voters who are crucial to success in statewide elections in this diverse state. Even some who know Santorum say flat out he isn’t the best candidate.
Santorum met privately with prominent conservative leaders in Northern Virginia Thursday to try and salvage his campaign and gain support from them. Reports say he was met with tempered expectations but some hope that he can stop the GOP juggernaut.
“You gauge what’s working and what’s not,” says ConservativeHQ.com chairman Richard Viguerie. “Rick has, so some extent, lost control of the narrative in the campaign.”
Whether Santorum can regain control of the narrative is not his only problem. April primaries favor Romney with Santorum’s only real hope lying in Pennsylvania. If he loses there his race is effectively over.
“Santorum’s race is over now,” says one GOP consultant. “The only person who doesn’t realize that is Santorum.”
Sources close to Santorum’s campaign say the mood among the Senator’s staff is “sullen” and “defeated.”
“The end is near,” says one campaign aide. “We know that but we will follow the Senator’s lead.”
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, once a frontrunner but now languishing at the bottom of the four man race, said Thursday he will stay in the race until Romney actually secures the delegates needed for nomination. The former Massachusetts Governor’s sweep of Tuesday’s primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia put Romney past the halfway point and on a path to secure the nomination by June.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul, the fourth leg of the GOP presidential primary stool, has become so irrelevant to the campaign that major news organizations have cut back on reporters assigned to the campaign and Republican leaders don’t even bother asking him to withdraw.