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March 25, 2013 1:43 PM Tangents Not Taken

By Ed Kilgore

I don’t want to perpetuate to any great extent last week’s story about the 2012 Santorum-Gingrich (or Gingrich-Santorum) “unity ticket” that never happened. But since TNR’s Nate Cohn went to the trouble of making the case that Romney would have, sooner or later, beaten either of these worthies, it’s worth remembering that when all this was going on, the real question was whether losing to Rick Santorum in Michigan might have put Romney in danger of being yanked off the stage in favor of an Establishment-dubbed late entry, particularly Jeb Bush. This is from a February 17, 2012 report from ABC’s Jonathan Karl:

A prominent Republican senator just told me that if Romney can’t win in Michigan, the Republican Party needs to go back to the drawing board and convince somebody new to get into the race.
“If Romney cannot win Michigan, we need a new candidate,” said the senator, who has not endorsed anyone and requested anonymity.
The senator believes Romney will ultimately win in Michigan but says he will publicly call for the party to find a new candidate if he does not.
“We’d get killed,” the senator said if Romney manages to win the nomination after he failed to win the state in which he grew up.
“He’d be too damaged,” he said. “If he can’t even win in Michigan, where his family is from, where he grew up.”
What about Rick Santorum?
“He’d lose 35 states,” the senator said, predicting the same fate for Newt Gingrich.

We’ll never know if another stumble by Romney at that point would have reopened a rapidly narrowing window for a late entry in 2012. But it’s worth noting that Mitt was considered such damaged goods that he was for a while one primary defeat away from generating a full-fledged party scramble for a new candidate. The point about the “unity ticket” isn’t that Republicans might have nominated Santorum or Gingrich. It’s that a small lift for Santorum might have sent Mitt down the tubes, and the GOP into uncharted territory. That’s how weak their 2012 field actually was.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • MattF on March 25, 2013 2:01 PM:

    Remember those polls showing the consecutive rise and fall of a half-dozen anybody-but-Romney candidates? Remember that Gingrich and Santorum were the -serious- ones in the Republican field? Remember how many potential candidates took a look and opted out? It's not easy to lose a series of essentially uncontested primaries, but Romney accomplished that.

  • Ronald on March 25, 2013 2:09 PM:

    Agreed- the real takeaway was the absolute weakness of the Republican field; but more importantly the lack of impetus of any of the 'savior' candidates to even take up the mantle.
    That said more to me about the current state of the Republican party than did Romney's apparent (even at the time) weaknesses.

  • Col Bat Guano on March 25, 2013 2:13 PM:

    I can't decide which is more delusional, that they thought they could just drag someone into the race that late in the primary season or that Jeb Bush, four years after his brother left with a 30% approval rating, was the top choice.

  • c u n d gulag on March 25, 2013 2:16 PM:

    Here are several reasons of why they had little choice, but to stick with Mitt:
    -It was Mitt's turn. Republicans usually pick the guy who finished 2nd the last time.
    -Since, even after 4 years of doing every, and ANY, thing the could think of to demonize President Obama, and take him down to a level where he could concievably lose, the smarter Republicans (there's no such thing as "smart" ones, anymore) didn't see a road to victory that was sure enough, to risk running against an incumbent.
    -Since the smarter ones stayed out, the younger ones didn't have enough name recognition, and the only other option was Jeb (whose last name was worse than mud), they had no option except Mitt or one of the loons, who'd have made an Obama landslide an absolute certainty.

    So, Mitt was the best of a truely remarkably weak field.

    In 2015, their perceived "stars" will come out in full bloom.
    Rubio, Cruz, Rand Paul, and probably Ryan again - maybe also Susan Martinez, if Hillary looks like she'll run the next year.
    Maybe some of their other Governors will decide to try a run - like Walker - they love him, since he won two "elections" over the Liberals. Unfortunately for her, Nikki Haley's stock is plummeting. And I doubt if Chris Christie will be welcome back, though maybe the Republicans will come to some semblence of their senses, and

    If Hillary chooses to run, then she has an excellent chance of defeating the Republican candidate soundly, whoever he or she might be. I think enough of the working white men and women in Appalachia, as well as former "Reagan Democrats" in the Mid and South West, will vote for her.

    I'm not saying Hillary is a sure thing, but she's as close to one as I've seen in a long time - which was the first Bush, when none of the Democratic "stars" decided to run against an incumbent VP - Mario Cuomo, I'm looking at you - both in '88 and '92!

    But, 3 1/2 years is a long time.
    Fortunes may change on the Republican side, or the Democratic side - and Hillary will, after all, be in her late 60's - though, that didn't stop Reagan, Dole, or even McCain, who was even older, from running.

  • boatboy_srq on March 25, 2013 2:19 PM:

    Any of the "savior" candidates the GOTea could have floated in 2012 ran the same risk that earlier entrants did: the only way to get "serious" attention from the "serious" people was to dash Rightward toward the Fascist cliff (without, of course, actually going over). After Huntsman, there weren't too many willing to go to the extremes required just to "save" the party.

    Take a good look at how many "saviors" were floated in late 2011 and early 2012: Huntsman himself, Jeb, Daniels, Walker, et al. None of the contenders with a snowball's chance were interested in the required Reichwing pandering, and none of the folks willing to make the effort lasted past two primaries. The GOTea field in 2012 was weak by design - nobody capable of handing the GOTea the necessary correction (who tried) could convince the Teahadists of their Orthodoxy (all that tried were summarily rejected), and nobody the Teahadists would rally around were capable of doing anything of the sort.

  • James E. Powell on March 25, 2013 2:56 PM:

    But itís worth noting that Mitt was considered such damaged goods that he was for a while one primary defeat away from generating a full-fledged party scramble for a new candidate.

    And it's also worth noting that despite being damaged goods, in the week after the first debate the whole Village was on fire with the belief that Mitt would win the general.

  • AfGuy on March 25, 2013 3:29 PM:

    And it's also worth noting that despite being damaged goods, in the week after the first debate the whole Village was on fire with the belief that Mitt would win the general.

    They DID want themselves a "horserace".... in the WORST way! Hence the spin...