Opening Act: Gingrich-Santorum 2012

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 22 2013 8:32 AM

Opening Act: Gingrich-Santorum 2012

No story will bring you more joy today than Joshua Green's thoroughly reported autopsy of the Gingrich-Santorum "unity ticket" that never happened. It overflows with hubris, from Santorum's insistence that this campaign by two thoroughly rejected politicians would have been strong in the general election to Santorum consultant John Brabender's idea that Gingrich would drop out during a televised debate. The scheme collapsed because -- surprise to end all surprises -- Gingrich thought he belonged at the top of the ticket.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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.

Given the timing Green lays out -- after the Florida primary, before the Michigan primary -- Gingrich's theory made a kind of sense. The only electoral evidence for a Santorum surge came with the non-binding Minnesota and Colorado caucuses and non-binding Missouri primary, which only Santorum really spent the time to win, as Romney and Gingrich focused on Super Tuesday states. Romney's campaign expected to win Colorado and didn't focus on the other two states. Gingrich wasn't on the ballot in Missouri. Even the political press was joking about the pointlessness of the February 7 primaries. But when Santorum swept those three states -- again, winning zero delegates -- the great God Momentum turned Santorum into the only credible Romney challenger. No less weird and baseless than the idea of a "unity ticket."

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David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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