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Gingrich pledges to support GOP rival Romney

ANNAPOLIS, Md. Under pressure to help unify his party, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich pledged Tuesday to support Mitt Romney if the former Massachusetts governor wins enough convention delegates to clinch the nomination by the end of the GOP primary season in June.

If Romney falls short, I think youll then have one of the most interesting, open conventions in American history, the former House speaker said as he campaigned for votes in next weeks Maryland primary.

Gingrich is short on funds, and his hopes for a Southern-based comeback in the race were all but extinguished by rival Rick Santorums recent victories in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. Even so, he has insisted he plans to campaign actively into the party convention, which begins on Aug. 27 in Tampa, Fla.

He signaled his change in remarks to reporters. If Romney gets the 1,144 delegates needed for the nomination by the time of the Utah primary June 26, Gingrich said, obviously I will support him and will be delighted to do anything I can to help defeat Barack Obama.

Gingrich and Santorum have both come under increased pressure from some Republicans in recent weeks to swing behind Romney, who is on track to pick a majority of delegates before the primaries end with the vote in Utah.

Gingrich has tried to position himself as an anti-establishment figure in the race, and has bristled at the devastating attacks that Romney and a Romney-aligned super political action committee unleashed at him at key moments in the campaign.

Yet as a former House speaker, he is also aware of the importance of party unity as the general election campaign comes into view.