Romney adviser confident Santorum, Gingrich will drop out

Romney stepped aside in 2008 in the name of party unity. Romney stepped aside in 2008 in the name of party unity. Nam Y. Huh/AP

Following a resounding win in the Illinois primary, a senior campaign adviser to Mitt Romney suggested on Wednesday that he is confident the GOP frontrunner's main rivals will eventually drop out of the race so the Republican Party can rally behind one candidate.

Eric Fehrnstrom pointed on CNN’s Starting Point to Romney’s decision during the 2008 GOP primary to step aside so the party could rally behind Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in preparation for the fight against Barack Obama in the fall.

“At the time, John McCain did not have the delegates he needed to clinch the nomination, but he was clearly on a path to doing that,” Fehrnstrom said, drawing a parallel to Romney’s significant lead over his nearest rivals in fundraising and delegates.

“It was important for John McCain to begin to rally the party behind him so he could prepare himself for the fall election campaign,” Fehrnstrom said. “Mitt Romney stepped aside.”

Fehrnstrom suggested that Romney’s main rivals, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, will follow Romney's 2008 example and step down before the GOP’s Tampa convention this summer.  

“They are both decent, honorable men who have run good campaigns,” he said. “Ultimately I am confident they will make a decision that’s not only right for their party, but right for them.”

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