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The Gingrich-Santorum Ticket. Err, Santorum-Gingrich Ticket.

Joshua Green reports in Business Week that during last year’s presidential campaign, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum very nearly formed a “unity ticket” to defeat Mitt Romney, but there was one problem: they couldn’t agree on which one would be at the head of the ticket.

It’s one of the great untold stories of the 2012 presidential campaign, a tale of ego and intrigue that nearly upended the Republican primary contest and might even have produced a different nominee: As Mitt Romney struggled in the weeks leading up to the Michigan primary, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum nearly agreed to form a joint “Unity Ticket” to consolidate conservative support and topple Romney. “We were close,” former Representative Bob Walker, a Gingrich ally, says. “Everybody thought there was an opportunity.” “It would have sent shock waves through the establishment and the Romney campaign,” says John Brabender, Santorum’s chief strategist.

But the negotiations collapsed in acrimony because Gingrich and Santorum could not agree on who would get to be president. “In the end,” Gingrich says, “it was just too hard to negotiate.”

Romney eked out a three-point win in Michigan on Feb. 28 and was never seriously threatened again. While this type of elaborate scheming is more typical of political thrillers, it was real this time. A year later, many of those who worked to build the Unity Ticket still believe it could have been decisive.

“I was disappointed when Speaker Gingrich ultimately decided against this idea, because it could have changed the outcome of the primary,” Santorum says. “And more importantly, it could have changed the outcome of the general election.”

The discussions between the two camps commenced in early February, just after Gingrich got trounced in Florida. Brabender called members of the Gingrich brain trust, hoping they could persuade Gingrich to drop out and endorse Santorum, who was rising in the polls. “I’ll tell you this,” says Brabender, “If Gingrich had dropped out at the right time, Santorum would have been the nominee.” Brabender wasn’t short on moxie: He wanted Gingrich to declare in the middle of a nationally televised debate that he was dropping out and endorsing Santorum. “I couldn’t write an ad to match the political theater that would have created,” he says.

Alas, clashing egos prevented the country from experiencing the inevitable amusement that such a ticket would have created.

Comments

  1. Doug Little says

    Santorum says. “And more importantly, it could have changed the outcome of the general election.”

    Yes, to the biggest landslide in history.

  2. gshelley says

    Does this come as a surprise to anyone? It was clear they both hated Romney, but that neither was going to step aside for the other. There was certainly a lot of speculation to that effect at the time.

  3. slc1 says

    Rather interesting since Gingrich has, apparently, gotten a mite wobbly on same sex marriage.

  4. says

    it could have changed the outcome of the general election

    Yeah … one or both of them would have said something that made 47% look like a hiccup.

  5. ArtK says

    Entirely expected from the party of Ayn Rand. The Republicans are congenitally incapable of putting anything ahead of their own ignorant self interest. Not party, not country, not even family. The attitude of “what’s good for me is good for the country” is pervasive.

    The Republican party is becoming more and more like Somalia: Small bands of cutthroats led by petty warlords who can occasionally band together against some common enemy (i.e. the black guy in the White House.)

  6. dingojack says

    busterggi – Well duuhh! Obviously Santorum would have been the ‘bottom’.
    Who else could produce the gouts, gushes and geysers of (amphibian-flavoured) santorum?
    :) Dingo

  7. says

    “In the end,” Gingrich says, “it was just too hard to negotiate.”

    And these guys thought they could negotiate with China, North Korea, Israel, Iran, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or France?

    These guys make the Three Stooges look like the Three Wise Men.

  8. Moggie says

    Brabender called members of the Gingrich brain trust

    The Gingrich brain trust!
    BWAAHAHAHAHAHA!

  9. baal says

    “they couldn’t agree on which one would be at the head of the ticket.”
    Much ado about nothing, It wouldn’t have mattered. Both would have gone on to pretend to be the one on top and have gone over the top in their public spectacle. Alternatively, Gingrich would have left Santorum after a while and then redone the top or bottom routine with Cain only until that’d fall apart over Cain’s creepy-gropey and Gingrich would have had to settle for Paul (who would object to the required platinum blond dye job but gone along with it).

  10. says

    It’s like that old sitcom gag where two characters are going to the costume party dressed as a horse, and argue over which one should be the head and which one is the horse’s ass.

  11. says

    Indeed. I’m sure it is “too hard to negotiate (with Santorum) in the end.”
    Sigmund Freud, cleanup on aisle 69. Bring lots of brain bleach.

  12. says

    …hoping they could persuade Gingrich to drop out and endorse Santorum, who was rising in the polls.

    It was the Republican primary; at one time or another every single on of them was “rising in the polls”. Then they’d come crashing back down (“In political news today, one of the candidates we haven’t yet taken a serious look at is rising in the polls…”).
     
    slc1 “Rather interesting since Gingrich has, apparently, gotten a mite wobbly on same sex marriage.”
    Now you’re just being ridiculous. His secretary isn’t a man, and his wife isn’t sick.
     
    feralboy12 “It’s like that old sitcom gag where two characters are going to the costume party dressed as a horse, and argue over which one should be the head and which one is the horse’s ass.”
    Hardly. In the sitcom they win the election and end up painting a line down the middle of the oval office.

  13. says

    You have to admit, the combination of Newt’s oily sleaze and Santorum’s sanctimony would have been comedy gold for Stewart and Colbert.

  14. says

    d.c.wilson, the same could be said for any of the other members of the Republican primary clown car and their own crippling faults. The GOP may not have a sense of irony, self awareness, or for that matter, shame, but they know comedy. Their machine is like an aging, poorly maintained automotive stamping press that gets steadily more and more out of spec, but they keep it stamping out car fenders anyway (and when they diagnose its myriad failures, instead of “We should get a new machine” they decide on, “Cars are rejecting our hoods saying that ‘they don’t fit’, so our plan moving forward is to paint the hoods a different color.”
    This could be seen both in the aftermath of the 2008 election (“We’re Teabaggers now!”), 2012 election (as above), and in the GOP presidential primary that preceded it (“Don’t like the color Romney? How about the same hood in a nice shade of Perry? No? How about the same hood covered in Santorum? Cain? Bachmann? Gingrich? Trump? Paul? No? What about Romney?”)

  15. Childermass says

    I guess they never heard of flipping a coin.

    Other than being bat-shit crazy, one of the most unpresidential aspects of the Not-Mitts was that none of them seemed willing to stand aside even after it was clear that the only way to beat Mitt to not split the vote.

  16. =8)-DX says

    @16 You have to admit, the combination of Newt’s oily sleaze and Santorum’s sanctimony would have been comedy gold for Stewart and Colbert.

  17. kermit. says

    Childermass:

    Other than being bat-shit crazy, one of the most unpresidential aspects of the Not-Mitts was that none of them seemed willing to stand aside even after it was clear that the only way to beat Mitt to not split the vote.
    .
    In Altemeyers’ “The Authoritarians” he describes authoritarians playing a virtual global civilization game. Unlike the progressives, who usually finished the game intact and often prosperous, the authoritarian players always progressed to nuclear war, which was so expensive that all nations ended up wiped out or bankrupt. When the consequences of certain decisions in that game were explained to them, and they played again, it took longer, but they still ended up in nuclear war and losing.
    .
    I think they would rather lose than see their “enemies” win. And they always have enemies. Sigh.

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