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Gingrich says Romney must 'earn' the nomination

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Newt Gingrich reiterated Friday that he will not depart the presidential race until a candidate obtains the required number of delegates to secure the Republican nomination but acknowledged that Mitt Romney could get to that threshold before the convention.

“I think that he [Romney] clearly has a chance to do it, and if he does succeed in doing it, obviously Callista and I will support him and I’m sure Rick Santorum will support him. But he has to earn it,” Gingrich said at his Green Bay campaign office. “But if he doesn’t get to 1,144, then I think you’ll see a very different party discussion from that point on.”

The former House speaker currently trails both Romney and Santorum by a significant margin in delegates and has just two primary wins under his belt. And many polls have him struggling in the batch of states that vote on Tuesday – Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, DC.

But standing just across from Lambeau Field in “Titletown, USA,” Gingrich explained why he doesn’t plan to get out before reaching the finish line.

“If you’re a Green Bay fan … you expect the team to play every quarter of the entire season and not just decide halfway in the season that it’s too hard,” he said at Kroll’s West Restaurant near the Packers' stadium.

Some criticize Gingrich for staying in the race because they fear he is dividing the party and preventing the base from rallying around the frontrunner, Romney. While party unity is important, Gingrich said Friday evening, sometimes ideas matter more.

"I want you know that we are deeply committed to going to Tampa, we are deeply committed to fighting for these ideas, that we are prepared to compete all the way. While I am committed to party unity, I think it ought to be party unity for a purpose, with a platform that matters and with ideas that enable us to say to the American people if you hire us, we’re not just anti-Obama, we are pro success for America and here are ideas that will make America successful,” Gingrich said.

According to Gingrich, he, Romney and Santorum all have one common tie no matter what.

“The three of us have a general agreement. We want to beat Barack Obama. If Santorum is the nominee, I will support him and Romney will support him. If Romney’s the nominee, Santorum and I will support him, if I end up being the nominee, both Romney and Santorum will support me,” Gingrich said, after he was asked about the conversations he has had with his two Republican competitors lately.

“Now the fact is that we’re committed to defeating Barack Obama and we’ve known each other a long time and we want to make sure that however this thing comes out in the end, that the Republican nominee defeats Barack Obama, and I think that that’s the essence of the conversations we have.”

On Saturday G,ingrich wraps up his three-day swing through the Badger State, speaking at the Wisconsin Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Presidential Kick-Off in Waukesha, Wis.