{{show_title_date || "The Gingrich-Santorum pairing that was never meant to be, 3/21/13, 8:00 PM ET"}}

A Gingrich-Santorum ticket?…Yeah, that almost happened

Updated

Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum almost joined forces to try and derail Mitt Romney’s procession to the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. What stopped them? The two couldn’t agree who would be top dog on the ticket.

Joshua Green of Bloomberg Businessweek revealed the juicy details of one of the “great untold stories of the 2012 presidential campaign,” one which could have conceivably produced a different nominee on the Republican ticket. With Mitt Romney’s candidacy flailing heading into the Michigan primary, a “unity ticket” between the two insurgent challengers was discussed, but never materialized.

“That’s why this eventually fell apart, because even when Gingrich was losing steam and Santorum was winning, Gingrich still envisioned himself as the top dog on the ticket,” Green told Chris Matthews on Hardball Friday. ”[Newt’s] always viewed himself as an executive, as this kind of grand figure, historical figure who lead his party to the majority and can do so again. I think at the time, he viewed Santorum as a junior partner even when he was losing badly, he still viewed Santorum as a junior partner.”

Gingrich and Santorum certainly never hid their disdain for Romney’s past moderate streak as governor of Massachusetts, an agent which bonded the two together and almost created the unlikely alliance. At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)  last year, when Santorum’s fate as the runner-up to Romney was all but sealed, Santorum drew a clear line of where he thought the party should head.

“We won in 2010 because conservatives rallied. They were excited about the contrast [with Democrats],” Santorum said. “We always talk about well how are we going to get the moderates? Why would an undecided voter vote for the candidate of a party, who the party’s not excited about?”

Time Magazine’s Michael Scherer is not so sure the Republican establishment agrees with Santorum’s assessment.

“I think the most interesting part of this thought experiment is if they had beaten Romney and then gotten thumped in the general, which they most likely would have, would the Republican Party be in a different position now? The Republican Party as an institution is trying desperately to expand itself beyond [Santorum’s idea of needing to be more conservative] “

Matthews concluded with a prediction on where he thought the Republicans were headed for 2016. “My hunch is they’re going to go right, because they’re going to see Hillary Clinton coming and they’re going to say we’re not going to beat her, let’s have some fun at least.”

A Gingrich-Santorum ticket?...Yeah, that almost happened

Updated