On Friday, May 4, Rick Santorum will huddle with Mitt Romney. According to Santorum strategist John Brabender, the former rivals will discuss a variety of topics, including how Santorum could potentially work with Romney during the general-election campaign.
“It’s about more than moving toward an endorsement,” Brabender says. “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.
“From a political standpoint, Rick’s top priority is beating President Obama in the fall, so they’ll discuss how they can work together to accomplish that,” he continues. “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.”
Beyond that, Brabender says, “Rick doesn’t have any expectations going into this meeting. We’ve only taken one thing off of the table: talking about our campaign debt. Rick doesn’t want that to be a part of the discussion, in any way. For us, it’s an extremely manageable debt, and an endorsement, should it come, will be about policy and principles, not about a deal between the campaigns on the debt.”
Santorum will “not be walking in there with a list of 20 demands,” Brabender says, but as the former senator’s chief adviser, he isn’t averse to spelling out how his candidate could be an asset on the trail.
“I highly doubt that a convention speaking slot will be discussed on Friday,” he says. “But from a consultant perspective, it’s clear that Rick fired up the base in state after state. He kept winning, even after he was ignored by the party hierarchy. It would be a logical benefit for the Romney people to have Rick play a major role at the convention.”
And as for Romney’s number-two spot, Brabender says, he isn’t expecting that to come up on Friday, either. But, as with a plum speaking role in Tampa, he wouldn’t mind if Santorum was a key part of the vice-presidential discussion. “The senator certainly hopes that the governor will select someone who adheres to conservative principles,” he says. “I don’t think [Santorum] has personally ruled anything out. The decision remains in the hands of the Romney strategists. They’re smart people. I’m sure they are going to be looking for someone who enhances their chances in the fall, and that will probably be someone who is a conservative Republican leader.”
In the meantime, Brabender adds, he has an active working relationship with Romney’s team. They are happy to assist Romney’s campaign as it looks to hire new staffers. Romney, for instance, recently hired Mike Biundo, Santorum’s campaign manager. “We’ll be sending a few others over,” Brabender says. “In the end, it’s about winning in November.”