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Gingrich And Santorum Talked About “Stop Romney” Unity Ticket

Santorum-Romney-Gingrich

Writing in Businessweek, Joshua Green reports that, during the height of last year’s Republican Presidential fight, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum discussed uniting to stop Mitt Romney from winning the nomination:

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.

Gingrich had other ideas. He proposed that both men join forces but remain in the race, each concentrating on the states where he matched up best against Romney. Gingrich thought he could carry Georgia, Delaware, Washington, and Wisconsin (from which his wife, Callista, hails). Santorum would focus on other states in the South and the upper Midwest. But there was a catch. “The appeal of a Unity Ticket was strength in numbers,” says Kellyanne Conway, Gingrich’s pollster. “The big question was, who was going to unify with whom? Who was going to be the sheriff and who was going to be the deputy?”

Gingrich thought that he belonged on top of the ticket. “Our reasoning,” says Walker, “is that we had won a major primary at that point [South Carolina] and people like Rick Perry were coming on board. Perry had just endorsed Newt.”

To Santorum’s team, however, the Gingrich campaign was a sinking ship, and their own man was the obvious choice to lead the ticket. “At the end of the day,” says Brabender, “we won 11 states and tied two others. He won two states, which makes it only logical that Rick was the one who had earned the right to go one-on-one with Romney.”

In the end, of course, the idea fell apart because neither side could agree exactly what kind of alliance they should form. Gingrich, being Gingrich, thought that he belonged at the top of the ticket because he was the most senior figure. Santorum, on the other hand, seemed to see Gingrich as damaged goods to such an extent that focusing an anti-Romney campaign on him would have been doomed from the start. This outcome isn’t entirely surprising, really. Trying to get two politicians who both hold the belief that they are the best hope for the party in the 2012 elections (otherwise why would they be running) to agree to much of anything. Remember, Gingrich and Santorum were attacking each other last year as much as they were attacking Romney and the other candidates. The idea that they would have put that aside is simply laughable. Even if these two men had somehow agreed to a “unity ticket” of some kind, I doubt that it would have lasted very long had it had even a modicum of success. At some point, the natural ambitions of both of the candidates would have taken over and the alliance would have broken down.

What’s most amusing, though, is the idea that either of these men, and their advisers, ever thought that a “unity ticket” would have ever worked in the sense that it would have been able to stop Romney’s seemingly inevitable victory.  As I noted throughout the GOP race, Republicans seemed to be on a search for the “Anyone but Romney” candidate. Before the race even began, people on the right were nearly begging candidates like Mitch Daniels, Mike Huckabee, and Jeb Bush to step in because none of the declared candidates looked like they’d be able to beat the Romney juggernaut. This problem became apparent during the months before the debates started when Michele Bachmann of all people surged to the front of the polls even though nobody actually believed that she would be a viable candidate in the General Election. When Rick Perry entered the race, he quickly became a hero on the right and pushed Bachmann far back in the polls, a position from which she never recovered. When Perry fizzled out, Herman Cain got his chance in the spotlight but quickly fell back thanks both to the fact that his was a campaign without substance and because of his own personal scandals. Finally, as 2011 ended and the first votes got closer, Gingrich and Santorum both started rising in the polls. While both candidates would go on to score victories — Gingrich in South Carolina and Santorum in a number of caucus states in the Mid-West and elsewhere — neither one of them came anywhere close to being a real threat to Romney’s ultimately inevitable victory. What leads anyone to think that some kind of “unity ticket,” the logistics of which seem inherently unworkable, would have done any better?

Daniel Larison comments:

The “unity ticket” gimmick would have received its share of media attention, but why would voters be more drawn to a ticket that included the flaws of both Santorum and Gingrich? The activists and pundits desperate to find an alternative to Romney might have cheered it on, but why would it change who the nominee turned out to be? If anything, the possibility that the GOP might end up with Gingrich and Santorum as their presidential ticket would have driven more Republicans towards Romney rather than lured them away from him.

And they would have been helped along by the Romney campaign and it’s supporting SuperPAC’s, both of which were very good about going negative against whichever candidate appeared to be a bigger threat to Romney. Throughout the campaign, both Santorum and Gingrich consistently had higher negative poll numbers than Romney ever did, and Romney would have exploited that advantage quite well. As Larison notes in his piece, if the right had wanted to find a candidate to “stop Romney,” the time to do that was well before the voting had started, preferably early in 2011 or 2010. As it was, they were left with the field they had, and with that field, the idea that a disgraced former Speaker and a former Senator who couldn’t even get re-elected in his home state could have stopped Romney is utterly absurd.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. grumpy realist says:

    I don’t think there’s an arena in the US big enough to hold both of those two goofballs and their egos….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  2. C. Clavin says:

    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
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    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 35 Thumb down 0

  3. Mikey says:

    @C. Clavin: Let me join you…Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  4. C. Clavin says:

    I’ve just learned that Tsar and Jenos are forming a Unity Ticket.
    They were still discussing who would be President…and were about to throw Rock-Paper-Scissors…when Jenos’s Mom yelled down to the basement that it was dinner-time and Tsar would have to run home.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  5. legion says:

    I need a new chair now, ’cause I just laughed my ass clean off.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  6. Al says:

    I’m bummed they didn’t pull it off. Those two imploding may have actually damaged social conservatism enough to break its stranglehold on the GOP.

    Ah, who am I kidding? CPAC still would have proclaimed that there was no true Scotsman on the ticket.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  7. Franklin says:

    Ow, my sides!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Is there even an analogy for this one?

    “Braniff and Eastern Air Talked About ‘Stop Pan Am’ Merger?” Nah.

    “Ken Lay and Jon Corzine Talked About ‘Stop Bernie Madoff’ Hedge Fund Joint Venture?” Nah.

    Sometimes, I guess, the layers of irony are so thick they can’t be thickened.

    In any event, if you thought that that fiasco was, you know, a fiasco then just wait until ’15-’16. Bachmann. Rand Paul. Perhaps DeMint. Maybe Palin. Santorum, part deux. Christie. Perhaps Jeb Bush. A circular firing squad that quickly will devolve into a pissing match about the likes of evolution, vaccines, abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, etc. For as bad as the demographics are on the far left side the spectrum (government clerical workers, K-12 teachers, washed-up Hippies, millionaire “socialists,” and young students, truly a sorry lot) arguably the demographics of GOP primary voters are far worse. The Dems might win the ’16 Prez election by default.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 7

  9. the idea that a disgraced former Speaker and a former Senator who couldn’t even get re-elected in his home state could have stopped Romney is utterly absurd.

    Actually that’s not too absurd, with GOP voters besotted by symbolism and “sending messages.” What’s absurd is that Gingrich/Santorum seemed to think that after they had stopped Romney, they could then stop Obama. Now that’s absurd.

    Romney always had the best chance against Obama, and that’s to say he didn’t have much of a chance at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  10. CSK says:

    Given Gingrich’s history of adultery and divorce, and Santorum’s statement that if elected president, he’d talk to the American people about how birth control was “not okay for married Christians” (no mention of how it effects Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, et al), it’s hard to see these two clowns on the same stage, let alone the same page.

    I think Gingrich would have preferred to broker a similar deal with Perry, but Perry washed out too early on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  11. Chris says:

    A Gingrich/Santorum superteam! Wow! How could America possibly have refused?

    Well… fairly easily I suppose.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  12. Franklin says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: Maybe I’m missing something in your rambling, but K-12 teachers are a sorry lot?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  13. edmondo says:

    Santorum and Gingrich wanted to join forces to ensure that one of them would be the crustaceans at Obama’s Crab Boil? Freaking hilarious.

    If anyone wants to know what’s wrong with today’s GOP, just read this story. It’s all about tactics and nada about strategy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. The real question here is what to call the Unity ticket?

    The Gingrorum or The Santorgrich?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  15. Woody says:

    @Franklin:

    Even though much of the South has followed Tsarist educational principles (lower pay, fewer benefits, lowering licensure standards, no job security, inclusion of grifter “educational reform” properly-connected rentseeker companies) they haven’t fixed every problem facing youth.

    Teachers also tend to insist on a proper thesis, followed by coherent body paragraphs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  16. anjin-San says:

    Checking in from THE HELL THAT IS CARMEL. In spite of the socialist element here, there is real excitement around the Tsar/Jenos ticket.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  17. C. Clavin says:

    @ anjIn-San…
    I know…never has so much excitement been generated by so little potential.
    Jenos is practically jumping out of his/her onesy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  18. al-Ameda says:

    Santorum-Gingrich could win in North Korea.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. al-Ameda says:

    @anjin-San:

    Checking in from THE HELL THAT IS CARMEL. In spite of the socialist element here,

    Hasn’t the Monterey peninsula been on the State Department’s “no travel” list for decades?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. gVOR08 says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Per Google search results, just “Santorum” would have done nicely.

    Sounds like the Sears – K Mart merger. How could it possibly fail?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  21. Facebones says:

    And still, I bet Joyner would have found a reason to vote for that ticket over Obama.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  22. anjin-san says:

    ♪ ♫♩
    Cloudy
    My thoughts are scattered and they’re cloudy,
    They have no borders, no boundaries.
    They echo and they swell
    From Tolstoy to Tinker Bell.
    Down from Berkeley to Carmel.
    ♫♪

    If we could just get conservatives to listen to some folk music…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  23. swbarnes2 says:

    @Facebones:

    And still, I bet Joyner would have found a reason to vote for that ticket over Obama.

    Of course. He said so: numbers 1 and 2 of why he voted for Romney: inertia and loyalty.

    Truly, James is a fine example of the beat kind of conservative thinker.

    I’m sure James would have used his magic straight white man crystal ball to divine the true nature of Gingrich and Santorum, like he did for Romney, and I bet, being the straight prosperous white male Republican that he is, would have found that in reality, those two are good guys in their hearts, just like he did for Romney. Good thing James has one of those, and doesn’t have to resort to judging people by their actions, like the rest of of inferiors do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  24. al-Ameda says:

    @anjin-san:

    If we could just get conservatives to listen to some folk music…

    Actually, and somewhat predictably, they really like the intro from “Nobody But Me” by the Isley’s, later covered in a garage band classic by the Human Beinz:

    No no no no no no no no no
    No no no no no no no no
    No no no no no no no no
    No no no no no

    Nobody can do the
    Skate!
    Like I do

    … (they call out various dance moves like the Shing-aling, the Philly, the Boogaloo)

    …. (they finish with a bunch of “nobody’s”

    Well let me tell you nobody
    Nobody but me
    Well let me tell you nobody
    Nobody, nobody, nobody
    Nobody, nobody, nobody
    Nobody, nobody, nobody

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  25. anjin-san says:

    @ al-Ameda

    I’ve seen several lists of “greatest conservative songs” that included The Beatles “Revolution” – apparently they have no clue about how John Lennon viewed far right extremists.

    If I could mandate that every conservative listen to one folk song, it would be Peter, Paul, & Mary’s “The Great Mandala

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. Jeremy says:

    I would have liked to see a Santorum/Gingrich ticket in 2012 running against Obama. They would lose gloriously, and with Santorum at the top of the ticket, it would have dashed social conservatism against the rocks. I don’t even think CPAC, of all places, would be able to go the “No True Scotsman” route if that happened. Some might try, but in the wake of such an epic defeat of such a diehard social conservative, I think most at CPAC would have given up.

    It would have been the breaking of the fever the GOP is now under. Unfortunately, we will have to wait another four years, and maybe see if Rand Paul runs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0