“REMEMBER,” writes Timothy Noah, “in this primary race today’s high-concept gag is tomorrow’s headline!” Accordingly, he suggests Rick Santorum, hot off a handful of Super Tuesday victories, for Mitt Romney’s running-mate. Mr. Noah’s motives are, as he puts it, “impure”; if Mr. Santorum were on the Republican ticket, women and independents would shy away.
But some of the other veep prospects that you hear suggested have similarly controversial views on social issues. Marco Rubio, for example, was a sponsor of the so-called Blunt amendment and Mr. Santorum, has, at least, proven that he can get votes in a variety of states. Dave Weigel, not specifying whether his motives are mischievous or not, agrees that Mr. Santorum should be considered the front-runner for the vice-presidential nod: There’s not too much bad blood between him and Mr. Romney, and Mr. Santorum is already getting some media vetting as a result of being in the primary.
Well, why not? In the post-Palin context, the first rule of picking a running-mate is “don’t pick someone like Sarah Palin.” And while Mr. Santorum does seem like a bit of a Palin figure in that he might put off independents, who are crucial in a general election, as Mr Weigel points out, he is much more of a known quantity than Mrs. Palin, who was then the little-known first-term governor of Alaska. I would add that there are two key differences between Mrs. Palin and Mr. Santorum. The first is that Mr. Santorum, unlike Mrs. Palin, is not in a position where he might be picked as running-mate for a person of a dignified age. The most sobering thing about any given vice-president is his or her statistical proximity to the presidency. Say what you will about Mr. Romney, but he seems healthy, doesn’t he?
The other big difference is that Mr. Santorum is currently running against Mr. Romney, and has become the latter’s biggest impediment to actually wrapping up the nomination. maths effectively precludes the possibility that Mr. Santorum can win the nomination at this point, and Mr. Romney will almost certainly be the nominee, but there’s nothing to stop the former from chipping along.
I don’t expect that Mr. Santorum would be an asset to Mr. Romney in the general election: The evangelicals who vote in the Republican primary are going to vote for the Republican ticket, and the groups that balk at Mr. Santorum (moderates, women, small-government types, non-interventionists) might be dissuaded. But if you’re of the opinion that the long primary is hurting Mr. Romney, and thereby hurting the Republicans’ chances to win the White House, ending the race should be a top priority and tempting Mr. Santorum onto the ticket would be one way to do that.
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