Newt Gingrich says he's not dropping out of the GOP race

7:43 PM, Mar 26, 2012   |    comments
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(CNN) - Newt Gingrich may be far behind in the GOP delegate count - he has a quarter of the number frontrunner Mitt Romney does - but said on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer" that he isn't bowing out of the race.

"I think this is not over until it's over and obviously, if he does become the nominee, I will support him," the former House speaker said of Romney, calling him "the weakest front runner in modern times."

The former Massachusetts governor leads a four-man field - including Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul - ambling towards 1,144, the so-called "magic number" of GOP delegates needed for the nomination. Almost two-dozen contests remain, the last of which, Utah, votes on June 26.

"If he can get to 1,144, he's the nominee," Gingrich said. "But if he can't get to 1,144, on 26th of June, it will be a wide open primary at that point. If Romney can't clinch it, I think it becomes pretty wide open."

He likened the Republican race this year to the 2008 Democratic primary, when then-Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama wrangled for months after Sen. John McCain became the de facto GOP nominee.

In the case Romney does not win outright, Gingrich said "we'll have a discussion for those 60 days for who ought to be the right person to beat Barack Obama."

Santorum has also committed to remain in the race and is currently second in the delegate count. When pressed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Gingrich said Santorum "he doesn't have a guaranteed lock any more than I do or Romney does" on the nomination.

When President Obama spoke out on the death last month of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, Gingrich called his remarks "disgraceful." Asked about his comments, and a critical response to them by one of President Obama's reelection advisers, Gingrich did not repeat the criticism.

"I think he should show empathy for that family. I think he should show empathy for every family that loses a child," Gingrich said. "We should be concerned about any young American of any background who ends up getting killed. I think all of us should reach out with our hearts to any American."

With the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," as many know it, before the Supreme Court, Gingrich said he expects the court to find unconstitutional its requirement that individuals carry health insurance or face a penalty - and, because of that, strike down the entire law. He said his past support for an individual mandate came with a "libertarian opt out clause" which would allow individuals "other ways of meeting their financial responsibilities."

CNN

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