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Rick Santorum Says Newt Gingrich Can’t Bully Him to Quit Race

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(LEXINGTON, S.C.) -- Rick Santorum says he is not ending his bid for the Republican presidential nomination anytime soon -- not if he loses in South Carolina, and certainly not because Newt Gingrich wants him to.

Vying to be the conservative alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Santorum Tuesday brusquely brushed off Gingrich’s suggestion that he and Texas Gov. Rick Perry should quit the race to allow right-wing voters to coalesce behind the former House speaker.

Santorum called Gingrich’s suggestion “arrogant” and reminded reporters that he bested the speaker in both the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

“It is an enormous amount of hubris for someone who lost their first two races” to imply that he should be the presumptive choice for conservatives, Santorum said of Gingrich.

Asked if Gingrich should drop out to make way for Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator said he would not ask any of the other candidates to exit the race until they were ready to do so.

“I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to suggest that anybody gets out of this race and I won’t suggest anybody gets out of this race. These are character issues,” he said. “I believe everybody has the right to be in this race if they want to be in this race and fight as hard as they want for as long as they want and that’s how this process works. I’m not into political games. I’m not into political deals.”

Asked if winning or placing toward the top of the pack in South Carolina’s primary Saturday was essential to his viability as a candidate, Santorum said he was in the race for the long haul and persevered early on with little cash, little staff and little support from a big-spending super PAC.

“Why are you guys so fixated on the length?” Santorum snapped at a reporter who asked if his bid could end this week in South Carolina. “Let’s just do me a favor: We will take this one election at a time and then I will talk to you after this election about what we are going to do in the next election.”

Santorum spent the day portraying himself as a “bold alternative” to President Obama, chiding Mitt Romney and even Gingrich as being too politically close to the president on a range of issues. He described Romney as “timid” and Gingrich as “all over the place.”

“We have Gov. Romney, who is timid and isn’t what the country needs,” Santorum told a group of Republican activists in Aiken. “And you have Newt, who is bold, but all over the place: attacking capitalism, supporting capitalism; attacking global warming, for global warming. We need someone who is bold and consistent. That’s why I believe we’re the alternative, and we’ll see what South Carolina puts forward.”

Santorum said Gingrich, who currently leads him in the polls here but is still behind Romney, was not conservative enough.

“I would make the argument that Gingrich isn’t nearly as conservative as I am on most of the issues. He was for a minimum requirement on health care, cap and trade, global warming, the Wall Street bailout. I’ve been against those things,” he said.

Santorum was also asked in Lexington about Romney’s admission Tuesday that he paid around 15 percent in taxes. The senator said that rate was less than what he paid, and admitted to doing his own taxes.

“I’m pretty confident it’s less than mine,” he said. “I have to go back and look. I do my own taxes but I haven’t looked at them in quite awhile, thank God. I don’t know what my effective rate of tax is, but I’m fairly confident it’s a lot higher than 15 percent.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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