Rick Santorum has said he will be in the race for the long haul, and I have no reason to doubt his sincerity.

But what message does it send his supporters in Florida that he’s not even hanging around for election night?

Failing to show early signs of momentum in the Sunshine State, presidential hopeful Rick Santorum on Wednesday signaled he may be cutting out of Florida before the state’s Jan. 31 primary.

Speaking to reporters here, the former Pennsylvania senator said was unsure if he would be in Florida the night of the primary, committing only to campaigning in the state over the next two days. On Saturday, he’ll head home to Virginia for fundraisers and to prepare his tax records which he plans to soon make public.

His voters strongly prefer Newt over Romney according to the latest PPP poll:

If Rick Santorum drops out between now and next Tuesday, Gingrich will be the beneficiary. His voters prefer Gingrich over Romney 50-23, and in a field where he’s no longer a candidate Newt’s lead expands to 43-36.

Will an unofficial drop out, at least in Florida, be the differerence?  I don’t see how he revives his campaign unless he can be competitive in one of the prize states.

But he can do damage at the debate Thursday night, and leave with a bang.

Update:  Romney campaign sends mass email quoting Pelosi threat against Newt (Update: Pelosi backs off)

Update 1-26-2012: Santorum counters Florida exit talk, says he will be in state through Monday.