Stephen M. Walt

Can Santorum make a deal with Newt?

Today, permit me a digression into U.S. electoral politics. In the aftermath of Rick Santorum’s victories in Alabama and Mississippi, it seems clear that Santorum’s best hope for securing the nomination is to get Gingrich to drop out and endorse him. The basic logic, as Andrew Sullivan links to here, is that this step produces ...

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Today, permit me a digression into U.S. electoral politics. In the aftermath of Rick Santorum’s victories in Alabama and Mississippi, it seems clear that Santorum’s best hope for securing the nomination is to get Gingrich to drop out and endorse him. The basic logic, as Andrew Sullivan links to here, is that this step produces a Santorum victory in Illinois and drives a stake in the heart of Romney’s chances.

Assuming that this notion is correct, then Santorum ought to do whatever it takes to get Gingrich to drop out and back him. Why not offer to make him the vice-presidential nominee? If Gingrich has any sense of political reality (a proposition I’m not prepared to defend), he must understand by now that he has no chance whatsoever of being the nominee himself. But VP is, as they say, a heartbeat away, and it’s actually a job that is suited to Gingrich’s peculiar talents (if not his ego). He wouldn’t be in charge of anything (which is good) but he would get to make a lot of windy speeches and he’d be available as a sharp-tongued attack dog when needed. Think Spiro Agnew.

This strategy would put two Catholics on the ticket, but that doesn’t seem any worse than putting a Mormon at the top. I deplore this sort of religious prejudice myself — I don’t see much difference between venerable, well-established religions and more recent inventions — but I’m a realist and it’s clear that some Americans still think this stuff matters.

A Santorum/Gingrich ticket would probably be a dud in the general election, but so would Santorum/Anybody. But remember, the most important goal in the primary season is to win the nomination. Then worry about what you can do in Round 2. So if Santorum is serious about wanting to be president, he should offer Gingrich whatever it takes. As a registered if not quite loyal Democrat, I hope he does.

Update:  The original post was edited slightly in response to a reader’s comment and advice from a trusted personal advisor.  

 

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola