Rick Santorum is not going to give it up easily. He’s looking for at least a little sweet talk and some kind of commitment first.
Eight days after suspending his own campaign for president, Santorum has yet to endorse the certain Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. It had seemed there was a perfect opportunity for a party unity event on Tuesday morning, when Romney visited a Pittsburgh suburb, but Santorum was not there.
Indeed, the former U.S. senator from Pittsburgh had told 4,000 supporters on a conference call just hours before that event that he was fine if they wanted to vote for him in next Tuesday’s Pennsylvania GOP primary, or in any upcoming contest, for that matter. He declined to endorse Romney and did not even mention him.
“As far as how you vote, that's up to you," Santorum said in response to question. “I haven’t supported any candidate at this point, so that's really up to you.”
Santorum did say he’d be “all in” on the GOP effort to defeat President Obama. He also allowed as how he’d be putting forward an organization to promote the conservative values he espoused during the nomination race. Of course any such PAC or foundation could easily serve as the proto-campaign for his next presidential run.
Why the delay in endorsing? For one thing, Santorum has a campaign debt of at least $900,000, and he is busy reaching out to supporters, through the conference call and email among other things, to donate money to retire the debt. He also apparently is intent on leveraging a role at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, such as influence on the party platform, and respect for conservatives in a Romney administration.
“They are going to just sit down and talk about a few things on the agenda. One of the things that will be discussed is a potential endorsement,” Santorum senior strategist John Brabender told Shushanna Walshe of ABC News on Wednesday. Brabender said the men would meet to talk within the next two to three weeks.
“The Senator takes his endorsement very seriously and he will want to get some assurance that some of the issues that are very important to him will be important in a Romney administration. That’s why I think they need to have a conversation,” Brabender said in the interview.
On the Monday conference call, Santorum was asked if he might ever “un-suspend” his campaign.
“I would just say…stay tuned, and we really are serious about making sure that the issues that we brought up during this campaign are continued going forward,” Santorum said. “We still have delegates, many of them committed, and we want to make sure that our delegates get a chance to go to the convention and have a say.”