- Only a conservative can beat Obama in 2012
- Mitt Romney is not a real conservative
- To beat Romney, we can only have one conservative in the primary race
- Therefore, (other guy) should drop out of the race and support me, so I can beat Romney and Obama
So far, it clearly hasn’t worked – some combination of stubbornness and optimism have kept the two candidates in the race. I suspect that it’s somewhat personal as well – none of the 3 major candidates have any love lost for each other, so the idea of sucking it up and getting in line behind another for the “good of the party” clearly isn’t appealing on a personal level.
So since this week is supposed to be a lull in the campaign anyway, my suggestion to Santorum and Gingrich is to arrange a Thunderdome – two conservatives enter, one conservative leaves. There’s a number of different ways of doing it, but the two should make the contest between them explicit and give it some structure. Hold some head-to-head debates to freeze Romney out of the press picture for a while, and agree to some metric to determine who/when one of them will drop out (probably the Super Tuesday results)
It’s already taking place in a de facto way -the candidate (between Romney, Gingrich and Santorum) that winds up third on Super Tuesday will probably drop out anyway, so why not make it explicit and public?
It casts those primary elections in a whole new light – and further crystallizes the image of Romney as the anti-conservative that is in both Santorum and Gingrich’s interest. It motivates their supporters to come out even in states heavily dominated by Romney, and even might motivate some tepid Romney supporters to vote for either Santorum or Gingrich, on the logic that they REALLY hate [Santorum/Gingrich] and want him to drop out, so they better vote for [Gingrich/Santorum].