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Santorum Holds Off on Endorsing GOP Candidate

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Rick Santorum said Monday night there is “no question Barack Obama has to be defeated,” but did not say he would back presumptive nominee Mitt Romney, instead revealing he had only spoken to Newt Gingrich, not Romney yet.

“As far as going with a particular presidential candidate right now -- I mean -- had a chance to talk to Newt, I haven’t had a chance yet to talk to Gov. Romney,” Santorum said on a conference call. “But we’ll be talking to both of them and we are going to go out and deal with who we believe is in the best interest of our country and winning this election and make sure that we have a conservative platform, conservative message and they follow through with that conservative message after the election.”

This is a not-so-subtle jab at the man about to become the party’s standard bearer. Santorum consistently would say on the campaign trail that in 2008, Romney convinced him of his conservative bona fides before he backed him and then Romney quickly changed his tune.

Although Santorum is expected to eventually back Romney -- both longtime adviser John Brabender and top donor Foster Friess told ABC News last week they expect him to endorse Romney -- he was specific Monday night that he was not endorsing anyone in the presidential race.

“I haven’t supported any candidate at this point,” Santorum said, when asked who his supporters should vote for in the Pennsylvania primary on April 24.

He instead told them “the best thing” they can do is “stay tuned” and promised he would stay “active and engaged” in the campaign.

“What we are going to do is make sure we put together a winning idea that can rally folks and win this election up and down the ticket and that will be our focus,” Santorum said.

Sources close to the Santorum campaign tell ABC News Romney and Santorum may not even meet until after the Pennsylvania primary.

Santorum also made it clear he won’t be releasing his delegates to whomever he backs, saying he wants to “make sure” the delegates “go to the convention and have a say,” to influence the platform of the party and have an “impact on the convention process” making sure both the platform and convention “reflects the things our campaign stands for.”

Although he did not give any clues on his new venture, Santorum did say there will be a “place for people to organize and rally,” and he is working on the project and will share more information in one to two weeks. He stressed he will be active not only in the presidential, but down ballot races as well.

The call was moderated by longtime aide Mark Rodgers, and at the beginning Rodgers teased that there would be some sort of “surprise” during the 30-minute call.

Although no specific surprise was unveiled, listeners could hear his 3-year-old daughter, Bella, recovering from pneumonia being fed by Karen Santorum on the line, possibly what Rodgers was referring to.

Santorum said a lack of money was only a “very, very small piece of the story” of why they decided to end the race, and instead the losses in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C. (Santorum was not on the ballot there), plus not being able to switch Texas to a winner-take-all state, made a way forward impossible.

He also said the campaign tried to “form a coalition” with the “rest of the conservatives in the race,” but that didn’t “pan out.” Santorum was referring to Gingrich and how he was not successful in convincing him to bow out and back him, even though Santorum was ahead in the delegate fight.

The call was to thank his supporters, but also to encourage debt relief. Supporters were able to connect directly to an operator while on the call to donate to the campaign and help it get out of debt. The camp has been soliciting funds from supporters since he left the race through email messages, but this was the first phone call trying to encourage backers to give to the shuttered campaign.

Both Santorum and his wife Karen were frank about how they felt emotionally since the decision to exit the race last week. Santorum said he was “frustrated,” while Karen Santorum called it an “amazing journey,” but said her family is “very sad” and they are dealing with a “tsunami of emotions.”

Karen noted that Bella, who suffers from the rare genetic disorder Trisomy 18, is recovering, but said the day she went to the hospital with “really bad pneumonia” the weekend before Santorum got out of the race was “one of the worst days of our life.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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