Political Animal


March 22, 2013 8:17 AM The Scaaaaaary Unity Ticket

By Ed Kilgore

Don’t mean to frighten readers this early in the morning, but hey, news is news, this time from Joshua Green at Bloomberg:

It’s one of the great untold stories of the 2012 presidential campaign, a tale of ego and intrigue that nearly upended the Republican primary contest and might even have produced a different nominee: 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.
But the negotiations collapsed in acrimony because Gingrich and Santorum could not agree on who would get to be president. “In the end,” Gingrich says, “it was just too hard to negotiate.”

The timing of this might-have-been was acute: right before the Michigan primary, when Romney was in serious trouble of imploding altogether amidst shadowy talk of drafting Jeb Bush or some other party savior. But the talks started earlier, and that was probably the problem: with Newt having resurrected himself three times by then, and with Sheldon Adelson offering an apparently bottomless pot of money, why wouldn’t this man with an ego the size of the Capitol Dome insist he would be the king of the mountain?

Finally, the two candidates spoke face-to-face at an energy forum just before the [Michigan] primary. Gingrich made an elaborate historical argument that when the party hasn’t been able to agree on a nominee, it always settles on the senior figure. Santorum wasn’t persuaded, and urged Gingrich to do what was best for the conservative movement

It was obvious throughout the 2012 presidential nominating process that the only way a candidate as flawed as Mitt Romney was going to win was to exploit the foibles of his rivals in probably the weakest field in living memory. This is a good example.

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.


  • Milt on March 22, 2013 8:43 AM:

    This is a great joke to start the day - it belongs in the comic strips. A unity party who's two main characters can't even make a decision between them. Too bad Herman Cain wasn't invited, they could have made a remake of the Three Stooges.

  • boatboy_srq on March 22, 2013 8:48 AM:

    It says a lot about the strength of the GOTea when a right-wing blowhard prude and an attention-hungry serial monogamist represent a credible "unity" ticket.

  • martin on March 22, 2013 8:50 AM:

    Which is more insane: Thinking Newt should be president, or thinking he could be your vice president? Doomed from conception.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on March 22, 2013 9:04 AM:

    Mittbot laugh: Ha! Ha! Ha!

    Neither could have played second fiddle to the other. I can just see whoever pulled the short straw for VEEP boobie trapping the White House with all sorts of Wile E. Coyote-type death contraptions...

  • Ron Byers on March 22, 2013 9:09 AM:

    April fools isn't for another 10 days or so.

    If they had been able to produce a "unity ticket" to topple Romney that ticket would have lost by 10 to Obama instead of just 5.

  • Mikhail the History Grad Student on March 22, 2013 9:19 AM:

    This isn't scary, it's hilarious.

    Oh please God, let them try this again for 2016. It will be the funniest presidential campaign in recent history.

  • bluestatedon on March 22, 2013 9:19 AM:

    Hell, I think the margin would have been more than 10 points. It's too bad that it didn't happen, because it would make it much more difficult for the teaBirchers to assert that Obama won because the GOP ticket wasn't conservative enough.

  • c u n d gulag on March 22, 2013 9:21 AM:

    Well, that was funny!

    Especially since, though they desired the nomination, neither had a soot-covered snow-balls-chance-in-Hell of winning.

    And besides, both of the two men really wanted to be something else, entirely:
    -Santorum alway wanted to be Pope.
    -And Gingrich always wanted to be Bill Clinton.

  • That Guy on March 22, 2013 9:22 AM:

    It's a shame that it didn't happen. After the electoral bloodbath, it would have forced the GOP to come to grips with the fact that a more conservative ticket equals failure in this day and age.

  • Peter C on March 22, 2013 9:29 AM:

    "Yeah, we would have had a unity ticket, but we just couldn't stop fighting all the time. All we could agree on, really, was that we hated Romney."

  • ComradeAnon on March 22, 2013 9:35 AM:

    The words Newt, Santorum and acrimony frequently turn up in the same sentence.

  • Josef K on March 22, 2013 9:52 AM:

    Santorum wasn’t persuaded, and urged Gingrich to do what was best for the conservative movement

    Note the priorities here: Santorum "urged" the former Speaker "to do what was best for the conservative movement". More evidence the GOP conflates themselves for the country at large, and thereby confirms they haven't got the foggiest clue what kind of country they're living in anymore.

    Gaming out how a Santorum-Gingrinch (or vice-versa) ticket would have managed against the Obama/Biden ticket is hard, given how much political baggage both men brought with them versus the carry-on that Romney had. It was a mite easier to take Romney seriously as both a candidate and leader where I don't think neither Santorum nor Gingrinch could have managed it. Certainly I doubt either could have pulled off the "moderate" act Romney managed in the first debate, never mind kept their tempers as well as Mitt did in the subsequent two.

    Then again, who knows? Maybe the whole country would have finally decided DC is too insane to bother with. Thankfully we'll never know there.

  • biggerbox on March 22, 2013 10:13 AM:

    "We were close." Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha! I almost snorted coffee out my nose!

    Only someone in the shadow of Gingrich's enormous ego could possibly imagine that Santorum's enormous ego could be convinced to take the second chair. Close? Like the planet Neptune is to Mercury.

    But of course the Gingrich mythos depends on believing him to be the self-obviously right man for the job, yet tragically being foiled again and again by the failures of others to properly recognize that.

  • kindness on March 22, 2013 10:18 AM:

    Tell us something we don't already know. That Gingrich and Santorum are delusional is not news.

  • beejeez on March 22, 2013 11:36 AM:

    Clue for the GOP: Maybe you should try narrowing your field of presidential aspirants to those who actually weren't thrown out of office.

  • schtick on March 22, 2013 11:45 AM:

    I wonder, could Noot ever be president? I think there was some kind of penalty he agreed to when he got the boot from congress and that's why he became so upset when Pelosi said: I guarantee Noot will never be president. I know things.

    He was talking about suing her. So I feel there was something there that would squash his run. Let's face it, rules and penalties mean nothing to teapubs.