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Gingrich and Santorum nearly mounted 2012 ‘Unity Ticket’ coup against Romney

By David Ferguson
Friday, March 22, 2013 11:38 EDT
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For a brief moment in the 2012 campaign, former Speaker of the House Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) contemplated forming a “Unity Ticket” in an eleventh hour bid to scuttle the candidacy of former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) and perhaps seize the presidency. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, however, the plan imploded when neither man would concede the top of the ticket to the other.

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

Gingrich ally and confidant Bob Walker said, “We were close. Everybody thought there was an opportunity.”

John Brabender, chief strategist for Santorum’s 2012 run, said, “It would have sent shock waves through the establishment and the Romney campaign.”

The Gingrich and Santorum camps began to discuss the idea in early February of 2012. Romney was taking a commanding lead in the primaries. Gingrich had been walloped in every primary state thus far except South Carolina and Romney had just taken Florida. Brabender contacted Gingrich aides in hopes of persuading the former Speaker to leave the race and endorse Santorum.

“I’ll tell you this,” said Brabender, “If Gingrich had dropped out at the right time, Santorum would have been the nominee.”

The Santorum aide had concocted a plan that would see Gingrich dropping out of the race in the middle of a debate and endorsing his opponent. “I couldn’t write an ad to match the political theater that would have created,” he says.

Presumably Brabender did in some way contribute to Santorum’s one memorable ad from the primary season, in which a bumbling Romney impersonator fired brown liquid “mud” from a gun at cardboard cutouts of Santorum. Many saw the ad as a misfire in that it alluded too closely to the Santorum “Google bomb” in which activists have linked Santorum’s name online to the effluvia produced by anal sex.

Gingrich and his advisers suggested a different plan, that the candidates remain in the race, combining their respective followings to beat Romney, who many conservatives felt carried too much baggage as a former northeastern governor with liberal leanings. The “Unity Ticket” plan, however, came apart when neither Santorum nor Gingrich was willing to take the second spot and let the other run for president.

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

Gingrich acknowledged that the ticket could have had drawbacks and could have failed to unite the two men’s constituencies and overcome their individual failings as candidates. “It might have,” said Gingrich. “Or it might have just brought our weaknesses together.”

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
 
 
 
 
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