Gingrich, Santorum Discussed Joint Ticket Before Michigan Primary

Friday, 22 Mar 2013 02:25 PM

By Dan Weil

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GOP presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum discussed teaming up against Mitt Romney last year before the Feb. 28 Michigan primary, but they couldn’t agree on who would be at the top of the ticket.

“I’d like to have had Santorum drop out, and he’d have liked me to drop out,” Gingrich told Bloomberg Businessweek. “In the end, it was just too hard to negotiate.”

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Former Rep. Bob Walker, a Gingrich ally, told the magazine that the two conservatives "were close" to an agreement.

Santorum’s chief strategist John Brabender agreed. “Everybody thought there was an opportunity. It would have sent shock waves through the establishment and the Romney campaign.”

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator who is still mentioned as a possible candidate in 2016, told the magazine he wishes he and Gingrich had been able to strike a deal.

“It could have changed the outcome of the primary,” he told Businessweek. “And more importantly, it could have changed the outcome of the general election.”

The talks began in early February after Gingrich’s poor showing in the Florida primary. Brabender contacted the Gingrich team, seeking a withdrawal and endorsement for Santorum.

Not surprisingly, Gingrich wanted to do it differently. He thought each candidate should stay in the race, thinking each could do well in certain states and then combine forces, but with Gingrich at the top of the ticket.

That, of course, didn’t go over well with Santorum.

“At the end of the day, we won 11 states and tied two others,” Brabender told Businessweek. “[Gingrich] 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.”

Clearly the odds were against either Gingrich or Santorum accepting the vice presidential spot on a unity ticket. But their aides were hopeful that something might be worked out, especially if Romney had lot either Florida or Michigan, Walker said.

“I believe the money people would have begun to abandon him,” Walker added.

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But Gingrich said once Romney “had started rolling in Florida, with the scale of money he had, he would have been very, very hard to slow down.”

A joint campaign “might have” unified each side’s supporters, he said. “Or it might have just brought our weaknesses together.”


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