Mitt Romney
Mitt RomneyReuters

Republican Governors Association head Bob McDonnel said Wednesday that Rick Santorum's withdrawal from the GOP nomination race should signal party conservatives to rally around Mitt Romney.

The Virginia Governor told "CBS This Morning" that "conservatives, independents and clear-thinking moderates are now going to get behind" the former Massachusetts governor.

McDonnel said he believes Republicans have an excellent chance to make Barack Obama a one-term president, and that party people should be "keeping their eyes on the big prize, which is winning the presidency."

Political analysts have noted for months that the Obama administration and DNC have consistently targeted Romney in attack ads and negative rhetoric despite his frequently lagging behind other GOP contenders for short periods of time.

This, they say, indicates the Democrats are accutely aware that Romney - who commands a powerul political and fund raising machine - is the Republican candidate who poses the most danger to Obama's reelection.

McDonnel added that he believes Santorum "can bring a lot of people in" to the cause. Romney currently commands 645 of the 1,144 delegates he needs to win the GOP, while Santorum who was in second had 252 delegates.

Under GOP party primary rules Santorum's delegates are bound to him until the Republican convention in Tampa in August unless he chooses to release them.

It has been reported that aides to Santorum are speaking to the Romney camp about the possibility of an endorsement, but are said to be demanding a prominent role at the August convention and help in retiring the campaign's financial debts in return for a public blessing.
Meanwhile, some of the major social conservative groups who propelled Mr Santorum to victory in 11 primary contests are for now withholding their support from Mr Romney until he more aggressively voices his opposition to abortion and support for traditional marriage.
Tony Perkins, president of the influential Family Research Council, issued a stark warning that opposition to President Barack Obama would not be enough to rally conservatives around Mr Romney.
"It's difficult for us to back a candidate our constituents don't believe in and aren't excited about," he told CNN.

He said that Mr Romney needed to become a vocal advocate for social issues, "not just when he's asked in debates or cornered by a reporter," but warned that many activists were now turning their focus to winning control of the Senate in November.

McDonnell, whose name has surfaced in speculation about the vice presidential nomination, told the network "ultimately, that's up to the nominee. I'm perfectly happy being the governor of Virginia."

Santorum himself, and Florida Congressman Mark Rubio, have been frequently touted as potential vice presidential running mates in the 2012 presidential election.

Former National Security Councilor Condoleeza Rice, who has also been discussed as a potential VP running mate, has indicated she is not interested.