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March 23, 2013

The 2012 Primaries Could Have Been Worse

A lot worse.

According to people involved with both campaigns, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich came close to running on a unity ticket in the primaries.

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.

If you haven't totally suppressed your memory of the 2012 primaries, you'll recall that Mitt and Rick split Iowa, Mitt took New Hampshire, and Newt won big in South Carolina. Newt looked to solidify himself as the one and only viable not-Mitt candidate in the race. But, an awful debate performance and a Mitt Romney attack ad barrage sealed Newt's fate in the great state of Florida.

The Santorum campaign, seeing its chance to be the next not-Mitt candidate, decided to approach the Gingrich campaign with an idea. An idea so crazy it just might work would have never worked and was microcosm of the idiotic nature of the Santorum campaign.

Brabender(w/ the Santorum campaign) 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.

Obviously team Gingrich couldn't accept that offer, so Gingrich countered with an equally sane and grounded offer offer that was equally stupid.

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.

That's right. A unity ticket. How would it have worked in practice? Who knows. It doesn't look like the Santorum or Gingrich campaign really thought it out that far.

Can any of you guess why the unity ticket never came about?

But the negotiations collapsed in acrimony because Gingrich and Santorum could not agree on who would get to be president.

Of course you guessed that, we all did.

It's a shame to look back and think we had the opportunity to lose to Obama by 10% and passed it up.

You're welcome to follow me on twitter.

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posted by BenK at 07:10 PM

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