WASHINGTON — Newt Gingrich Thursday dismissed the idea that he talked seriously with Rick Santorum about forming a "unity ticket" to topple Mitt Romney during the Republican presidential primary race.
A report last month characterized the two candidates as having come close to reaching such a deal during the waning days of the 2012 presidential primary race. But Gingrich now says such a coalition would have been "unlikely."
"There was a serious effort to find an alternative to Romney, but I think it was very unlikely — I don't know of any occasion where you get independent candidates who've been competing to then turn around and say, 'Let's be unified, '" Gingrich said at a breakfast hosted by National Review.
But Gingrich and Santorum did toss about the idea, Gingrich confirmed, and there was some casual talk about dividing states, too — "you take these states, I'll take those states." That idea didn't get far, Gingrich said, because "every time's that's been tried historically, it doesn't work very well."
"The idea of trying to bring together a unity ticket, that would have brought together weaknesses as much as it would have brought together strengths," he added.
Asked whether he derailed talks to form a coalition with Santorum by demanding that he be at the top of the joint ticket, Gingrich scoffed.
"No," he said. "It was a joke. You have to win the nomination to be at the top of the ticket. And neither Santorum nor I had the money to compete with Romney and win the nomination."