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Santorum holds strategy sessions with conservatives amid calls to withdraw

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Click image to see more photos. (ABC News)

Click image to see more photos. (ABC News)

Following a loss to Mitt Romney in three primary contests Tuesday night, Rick Santorum gathered privately with prominent conservatives Thursday to discuss his path forward in the 2012 presidential race, news outlets reported.

"I would say the consensus in the room is, we continue to believe that Sen. Santorum has the best message that is most likely in November to be a winning message," former Family Research Council chief Gary Bauer, who attended an in-person session with Santorum in Virginia Thursday, told Politico. "And so because of that, we want to make sure that we're doing all the things that need to be done so that he will be successful."

Reports conflict about the degree to which Newt Gingrich's campaign dominated the discussion during the meeting attended by Bauer and other conservatives (and during a later conference call with out-of-state conservatives). But multiple news reports indicate Gingrich's presence in the race was a hot topic.

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Santorum, who lost to Romney in Maryland and Wisconsin Tuesday night (and failed to appear on the ballot in Washington, D.C.), has vowed to remain in the race despite running a significant delegate deficit behind Romney. His campaign is trumping up the April 24 primary in his home state of Pennsylvania as their next major target.

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