Santorum's private meetings focused on his way forward
April 5th, 2012
05:53 PM ET
2 years ago

Santorum's private meetings focused on his way forward

(CNN) – Rick Santorum participated in two meetings with conservative leaders on Thursday which focused on his candidacy, but not on whether rival Newt Gingrich should end his, sources with knowledge of the meetings told CNN.

"There was some frustration about the fact that Gingrich wasn't in Wisconsin, and if his vote had gone to Santorum then Santorum would have won, but I would not in any way say that meeting focused on getting Gingrich out," one participant said. This source and others spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity because of the non-public nature of the meeting.

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Another told CNN "the opinion of many in that room was that Santorum has a definite vision and positive message that he should stick to." The participant added, "he doesn't serve himself by getting into a pissing contest. He should present his vision," the source said.

Although it was not the focus of the meeting, participants did discuss how to sway Gingrich supporters to back Santorum. One participant said "time is too valuable to waste" on pushing out a candidate who has said he is determined to continue.

Santorum met in person with approximately a half-dozen others in Northern Virginia, then held a phone conversation with out of town supporters. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, participated in the call; participants at the Virginia meeting included veteran conservative activists Gary Bauer and Richard Viguerie, as well as conservative commentator Rebecca Hagelin and Brent Bozell, chairman of the ForAmerica organization.

Viguerie, a supporter of Santorum, said he and others urged the candidate to revamp the campaign strategy. He said the candidate is "prepared to make big, bold decisions."

"To a large extent we have lost control of the narrative of the campaign," he said. "We want to change the narrative - get it on small government, constitutional issues."

Bozell said the meeting was focused on the primary and general elections alike. He considers himself a friend of Santorum but has not endorsed in the race.

"The consensus was that the Santorum message is absolutely critical to the success of the Republicans this year," Bozell said. "No, no Republican candidate can win without Santorum's message which is not say that it is the only message that a Republican candidate needs to have."

Another characterized it as a brainstorming and mind-melding session.

"It was a realistic meeting. Everybody knows what's happened. What races lie ahead. Again, it wasn't any other big agenda other than to brainstorm ideas," the participant said.

Team Santorum has pushed back over the past few days against any talk the candidate would drop his increasingly long shot bid for the GOP nomination prior to the April 24 primary in Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania.

When asked if they discussed what would happen if Santorum loses his native state, the participant characterized the conversations as "more general than that."

"It was, if delegate gap doesn't obviously close, what do you do? If Romney keeps getting endorsements, how much impact does that have?" they said.

However, the meetings – attended by Santorum supporters – had nothing to do with Santorum ending his White House bid, according to a source, despite his trailing delegate total and trio of losses on Tuesday.

– CNN's Candy Crowley, Dana Bash, Kevin Bohn, and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Also see:

Santorum enjoys three strikes

Romney makes general election pitch in Pennsylvania, but can't ignore Santorum

Santorum: Romney attacks to fall short in Pennsylvania


Filed under: 2012 • Rick Santorum
soundoff (151 Responses)
  1. EffortPA

    I just love to watch the GOP party self-destruct. I think Fox News and Sarah Palin deserve a lot of credit for that. I truly hope that Sarah Palin gets more involved in the presidential election. She is the best thing to have happened to the Democratic party.

    April 5, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
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