While he’s still not ready to entirely concede defeat, exactly, Newt Gingrich these days sounds more like a man leading a cause than a campaign.

The onetime House speaker, who has almost no chance to win the Republican nomination, said he has a new mission: to make sure Mitt Romney runs as a conservative in the general election, as he has promised, rather than tacking back to the center, as his campaign has suggested he might.

“There’s no compulsion to get out of the race, except in the heads of writers and talk show hosts,” Gingrich said in an interview. “And nobody runs up to me, and says, ‘Please get out of the race.’ They have come up to me and said the opposite: ‘Please stay in the race.’ . . . People walk up again and again and say, ‘Please stay in and please fight for conservatism.’ ”