Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum Could Have Been America's Co-PresidentS

Newton Leroy Gingrich, a former college professor who co-writes speculative novels about alternative versions of history, has just coauthored the most momentous counterfactual of his career. Forget wondering what would have happened if the Confederates had won at Gettysburg, or if the United States had fought Imperial Japan and left Hitler alone: What if the two most absurd and most widely loathed candidates in last year's Republican presidential primaries had joined forces to win the White House?

Bloomberg Businessweek breaks the news that Gingrich and former medical-industry executive Rick Santorum engaged in talks about combining their campaigns into a "Unity Ticket" that would have won the secure and enthusiastic backing of the American conservative movement. Side by side, no longer draining resources from each other, they could have defeated the wishy-washy Mitt Romney and, by logical extension, Barack Obama. Picture it: This past January, our nation's greatness restored, as the Capitol dome and God's eyes gazed down on the inauguration of President Santorum President Gingrich No, Santorum. Get serious, obviously it should be Gingrich. What's that?

[T]he 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."

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. They tried in earnest. As one source puts it, "Rick and Newt did talk by phone for quite awhile"—each man presumably assuming the other was calling to accept his generous offer of the vice presidency.

But on the eve of the Michigan primary, when a Singrich-Gantorum push could have critically wounded Mitt Romney in one-quarter of his home states, the opportunity was lost:

Finally, the two candidates spoke face-to-face at an energy forum just before the 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.

Neither man would yield. "I'd like to have had Santorum drop out, and he'd have liked me to drop out," Gingrich says.

In the end, each man got what he wanted.