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The possibility of Santorum joining Romney's campaign as VP crossed my mind a few days back, and I decided to run it by the DK hive-mind. The current primary campaign looks like (from my perspective) a gorgeous, slow-motion trainwreck, that's doing great work for the Obama 2012 campaign. Romney and Santorum are competing to win the right-wing base by affirming their commitment to initiatives that are losers in a general campaign, from contraception to immigration to gay rights to health care to social security to plutocracy. They're throwing red meat to the wolves of the right, apparently unaware that this spectacle is being observed by a general public that is increasingly unimpressed and offended.

All that Obama has to do is hold the center and get support from the left, and the Republican primary is doing all the work for him. Whichever candidate wins the primary will already be weakened, and unable to pivot effectively to the center. It's enough to make me feel complacent, which I never trust. Which is why I started wondering about Romney and Santorum joining forces...

Head-to-head in the primary, the respective strengths and weakness of the Romney and Santorum campaigns make for a long grinding conflict:


Romney           Santorum

Fundraising       Christian conservative support
GOP support      Tea Party and conservative purists
Wall Street        Lower-income and lower-education voters
Flip-flopper         Fundamentalist            

(this is a very broad categorization, and assume's Gingrich is irrelevant)

Neither can effectively challenge their other on their "turf", and both have relatively strong power bases. The ongoing primary battle is just going to harden those differences, and more clearly define their respective flaws/weaknesses, making it hard for either to unite the party against Obama, after the primary. The most likely outcome is unenthusiastic R turnout, with Obama winning the left and getting respectable support from the center. None of the likely VP candidates show much promise of significantly affecting that scenario. And the media's raking in the cash by fanning the flames of the primary battle.

But what if Romney and Santorum linked up? It seems unlikely, especially after having fought in the primary. And it's hard to imagine the two working well together. But both share a cynical willingness to do what it takes to win the presidency - they're just occupying different niches in the Republican ecosystem. They come from different faiths, but share an inflexible, doctrine-based conservative perspective.

Combined, Romney brings the establishment support, funding, and election machine, and Santorum brings the conservative purists and faithful. And all it takes to justify the apparent hypocrisy of joining forces with the opponent you've been criticizing for months is a narrative along the lines of "We have decided that, despite our differences, it's more important that we unite to defeat the disaster of a second term for President Obama".

I don't know how feasible this is. My feeling is that the right's puppetmasters have to recognize by now that the current situation has no viable paths to the White House in 2012. This scenario would improve the adds, and change a lot of the current weaknesses into strengths. And the media would love it - close elections mean tons of media buys.

How would Romney-Santorum affect the Obama 2012 campaign? They'll face a better-united right, which makes for a closer campaign. But fighting both wings of the right would certainly get the left's faithful into the fight, and neither Romney nor Santorum nor both seems likely to be able to win the center.

Thoughts? I hesitated to write this diary, on the chance that I'd give the wrong people ideas, but this seems like a pretty basic idea, which likely has significant flaws. On the chance that it is feasible, I figured it'd be best for us to start gaming it now...

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