By JEFFREY COLLINS, Associated Press
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Newt Gingrich acknowledged that Mitt Romney had a good day, sweeping five more Republican presidential primaries Tuesday, but he vowed to keep campaigning in North Carolina through the week.
Beyond that, Gingrich isn't sure of his next step. In a speech in front of about 100 people in Concord, N.C., he both promised to fight to the Republican convention and said his campaign needs to evaluate what is going to be the best strategy to both advance conservative ideas and defeat President Barack Obama.
"Over the next few days, we are going to look realistically at where we're at," he told the crowd.
The stop at an old mill converted into a banquet hall in Concord came a few hours after Gingrich made a stop in Charlotte, where he said Romney was presumptuous to begin his head-to-head campaign against Obama while some states had yet to have their primaries.
The former House speaker walked away from reporters when pressed about how long he would continue a debt-riddled campaign that has no plausible route to denying Romney the Republican nod.
Romney spoke Tuesday in New Hampshire, the site of his first victory in the race for the nomination, and asked Americans to hang on a little longer.
Gingrich hung his comeback hopes on a strong showing in Delaware and has spent considerable time there in recent weeks. Under pressure for some time to drop out of the race, he has not won a presidential primary since finishing first in his former home state of Georgia on March 6.
Gingrich didn't directly mention Tuesday's results in his speech in Concord, but he told the crowd that Romney was going to "have a very good night" and was earning what he had worked to get for six years.
"If he does end up as the nominee, I think every conservative in this country has to be committed to beating Barack Obama," Gingrich said.
Earlier, one of Gingrich's daughters told MSNBC that the race remained fluid and that Gingrich wants to stay in because a dramatic shift could come at any time.
"You never know what's going to happen tomorrow," Jackie Gingrich Cushman said.
Despite trailing Romney in convention delegates 5-to-1, Gingrich has vowed to campaign until the party's late-summer convention in Florida. He has more than $4.3 million in debt.
Bob Walker, a former congressman from Pennsylvania who served with Gingrich in the House and now chairs his presidential campaign, said he thought Gingrich could do well in Delaware but acknowledged that a poor showing would force the campaign to make a decision about going forward.
"What we want to do is build some momentum out of Delaware into North Carolina. But if the Delaware results don't fit that profile, we will reassess the situation," said Walker, who insisted that Romney had still not won over many conservatives.
Gingrich kept his pair of scheduled appearances Tuesday in North Carolina, including his first election night party since February. He vowed to make all 23 of his stops in the state this week.
After his tour of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, he walked away when reporters asked him about his political fortunes.
"We will have something to say this evening ... when we see the results," he said.
Gingrich mostly ignored reporters after his Tuesday night speech, but he did answer one question when he was reminded of his promise.
"I decided the results were clear enough I think they gave you your answers," he said.
Campaigning in the Wilmington area of Delaware on Monday, Gingrich said winning the state would put him in good position to continue his campaign. But if Romney were to win big in Delaware, "I think you would have to stop and take a deep breath," he said.
Gingrich cautioned Romney against appearing cocky.
"Gov. Romney is clearly the front-runner. That doesn't mean he's inevitable," Gingrich said Monday.
Before the five primaries on Tuesday, Romney had won 698 of the 1,144 delegates needed to become the nominee, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Gingrich had 137 delegates.
Associated Press writers Mitch Weiss in Charlotte, Philip Elliott in Washington, Randall Chase in Dover, Del., and Beth Fouhy in New York contributed to this report.