When Rick Meets Mitt

As you may have heard by now, Rick Santorum is going to have a little sit-down meeting with Mitt Romney on Friday, as part of that ritual of reconciliation bitter primary opponents undertake before the vanquised hails the victor as the savior of the Republic. At Politico, Charlie Mahtesian takes an interview with Santorum’s “strategist” John Brabender about the meeting and amusingly tells us what Brabender is really saying. An excerpt:

What he said: “It’s about more than moving toward an endorsement. It’s also about helping Rick and Governor Romney to get to know each other on a personal level. They’ve only talked in passing at the debates; they’ve never really gotten to know each other. Rick wants to sit down with Romney, one on one, and talk through some things.”

What he meant: We think we’ve been clear that there isn’t going to be an endorsement yet. That will come in time, but we won’t be rushed. First, Rick wants to get acquainted with the governor and size him up outside the glare of the spotlight. Let’s face it: Nearly everyone who ran against Mitt in 2008 or this year loathes him. We’re no different. But we’re willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. We’re pros, we get that primaries can be bruising affairs. Still, we’d like to hear a little more about the thinking behind that Pennsylvania ad they cut near the end. A ‘historically embarrassing’ loss in 2006? ‘Lost his home county by 30 points’? That was below the belt.

Romney, of course, might well come back with some questions about a late Santorum ad showing Obama’s face morphing into Mitt’s in the context of the incumbent’s evil record on health care, abortion and taxes. But anyway, they’ll eventually get down to brass tacks:

What he said: “Rick, as someone who garnered over 3 million votes and won eleven states, is someone who can share a lot with Romney about how to win over conservatives, tea-party voters, and blue-collar Republicans. He is going to want to know, first hand, how Romney expects to make that part of the party not only part of his campaign, but part of his administration, should he win the election.”

What he meant: Respect must be paid. We’re not coming into this meeting as supplicants: We beat the governor and his fancy Boston campaign in the South, the Midwest and the Mountain West. And we did it with no money. Not bad for an ‘unelectable’ candidate. We’d be happy to provide some insights into the various key constituencies that Mitt couldn’t crack. After that, we’re very interested in understanding the thinking surrounding the choice for vice-president and, of course, HHS secretary

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Ah, yes, HHS Secretary. Veep is probably a reach for Rick, but I’m sure he would enjoy running HHS and having the opportunity to preside over the dismantling of health reform after first rescinding the contraception coverage mandate. It’s only fair since he was the candidate willing to say he thought contraception is immoral.

If any deals are cut or promises made, we won’t hear about it. But it’s a reminder that although Mitt Romney won the primaries, the party’s heart and soul by no means belongs to him. He, not Santorum, is the one who will have to crawl.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.