Buoyed by his strong debate performance in Myrtle Beach, Newt Gingrich has called his rivals to drop out of the race because “consolidating into a Gingrich candidacy” would “virtually guarantee victory” in the South Carolina primary and stop Mitt Romney becoming the Republican nominee.

Making the case to a crowd of almost 200 in an art gallery in the old railroad junction town of Florence, South Carolina he said: “If you look at the polling, I’m the only conservative who realistically has a chance to be the nominee.

“So any vote for Santorum or Perry in effect is a vote to allow Romney to become the nominee. Because we’ve got to bring conservatives together in order to stop him.”

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