Gingrich and Santorum almost formed anti-Romney ‘unity ticket’

The campaign that never was: Bloomberg reports that Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum nearly teamed up in last year's Republican primary to take on Mitt Romney as a "Unity Ticket."


Gingrich and Santorum nearly joined forces. (CNN)

The negotiations began in the run up to the Michigan primary. Santorum had just swept the Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota contests and was taking on Romney in Michigan, the former Massachusetts governor's home state. Gingrich had beat Romney in South Carolina a month back, only to get crushed under a wave of attack ads in Florida and Arizona.

Predictably, the pact fell apart over disagreements on who should lead the ticket. Santorum's team thought Gingrich had peaked and that the former House speaker should drop out and endorse his rival. Gingrich wanted them both to stay in the race but concentrate on different states; he thought he should lead the ticket because he'd won a major state and was a senior party figure.

There were reports during the race of an attempted non-aggression pact between Santorum and Gingrich, as well as talk of combining their delegates at the convention

After Romney narrowly won Michigan, Santorum supporters publicly (and unsuccessfully) pressured Gingrich to get out of the race. Santorum took three Super Tuesday states; Gingrich took one, his home state of Georgia. It was his second and last primary victory. Santorum again tried to get Gingrich to quit but dropped out himself in April after losing Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia to Romney. Despite his meager delegate count, Gingrich held on until May 2.

Would Romney have fallen to a conservative unity ticket? It's unlikely. A Post examination of polls in early February found that if Gingrich dropped out, Romney's lead would have only increased. If Santorum dropped out, his followers would have split between Gingrich and Romney.

Rachel Weiner covers cops and courts in Arlington and Alexandria.
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