Are conservatives ready to coalesce around a presidential candidate? A new poll commissioned by the Committee for Work Families PAC finds that a vast majority of grassroots conservatives want the Republican party to unite around one particular candidate: Rick Santorum.
According to a press release from the organization, 74 percent of respondents, all grassroots conservative activists or office-holders, believe the GOP needs to unite around a single candidate, and 82 percent of those said they believed Santorum should be that candidate. Eighteen percent selected Mitt Romney and only 16 percent selected Newt Gingrich. CWF chairman Gary Bauer issued the following statement:
A strong consensus is emerging at the conservative grass roots to unite behind Senator Santorum. There is great admiration for Newt Gingrich's contributions to conservatism, as well as his debating abilities. But the overwhelming sentiment was that he could most help the conservative cause by standing with Santorum so that voters have a clear choice in the remaining primaries.
Bauer continued, "Having run myself, I know how difficult it can be when you are in the arena and asked to step aside. The Super Tuesday results made it clear that there is a strong conservative majority in the GOP primaries, but that vote is divided. Tuesday's results also made it clear that Senator Santorum has the advantage. Now is the time for conservatives to stand with Senator Santorum.
Newt Gingrich is a walking think tank and one of the most effective spokesmen we have. He has always put the best interests of the conservative cause first. And at this critical moment, I believe he can best serve the cause as an advocate for our values outside the arena.
So is it time for Gingrich to exit the race? At the New York Times, Nate Silver crunches some numbers to show how much better situated Santorum would be without a Gingrich candidacy--and how much better off he will be if Gingrich exits the race soon. As a reminder, here's what the boss had to say in the early hours after Super Tuesday:
Mitt Romney of course remains the clear favorite. But the schedule over the next few weeks does him few favors. There are 14 primaries and caucuses in the next month, including Kansas on March 10, Alabama, Hawaii, and Mississippi on March 13, Missouri on March 17, Illinois on March 20, Louisiana on March 24, and Maryland and Wisconsin on April 3. Rick Santorum will probably hold his own—maybe more than hold his own—against Romney in these contests. (Furthermore, if Santorum can win Alabama and Mississippi next week, Gingrich may either get out or become fairly irrelevant, which would presumably help Santorum.)