Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

What does Santorum want from Romney?

By Kevin Bohn, CNN Senior Producer
updated 1:05 PM EDT, Fri May 4, 2012
Rick Santorum on April 10 announced he was suspending his presidential campaign.
Rick Santorum on April 10 announced he was suspending his presidential campaign.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bitter rivals during GOP campaign met to discuss Mitt Romney's campaign
  • Rick Santorum wants to make sure his issues are represented
  • No endorsement is expected today; aides say that may come later
  • The two aren't expected to discuss retiring Santorum's campaign debt

Washington (CNN) -- Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum battled each other for months, trading attacks over the Massachusetts health care plan, who was the true fiscal conservative and each other's records.

The one-time foes for the Republican presidential nomination sat down Friday in Pittsburgh not to hash over their differences, but instead to get to know each other better and discuss what role Santorum may play in helping Romney.

There was no photo-op, no statements to the cameras where they embraced each other — in fact the whole session was cloaked in secrecy as the two campaigns kept the details private.

Only Romney and Santorum were in the room for the 90-minute meeting.

What did Santorum want out of the meeting?

Santorum wants to find a "comfort level" about the role "social conservatives, tea party activists and blue-collar Republicans will play in the campaign and in the Romney administration," John Brabender, senior strategist to the Santorum campaign, told CNN before the meeting. "We are not walking in there with a litmus test. This is meant to be a candid conversation."

In previewing the session, aides to Santorum said he wanted to hear from Romney's camp whether it will emphasize conservative principles during the general election campaign and in the party's platform.

"We think there is an excitement around those issues," Hogan Gidley, a senior adviser to the Santorum campaign, told CNN. With him winning 11 states and doing better than Romney with the more conservative wing of the party in those states, "We want to make sure those people have a say."

One emphasis for Santorum is health care reform. He hit Romney very hard on the issue during the GOP campaign, calling Romney's Massachusetts plan a blueprint for the Obama administration's initiative. While Romney has repeatedly said he would push to repeal the law, Santorum wants assurances that any new plan pushed by the former governor will not include mandates.

Another issue Santorum will raise, according to Brabender, is his campaign's manufacturing proposal. "There has to be a focused effort on restoring manufacturing" in Romney's agenda, Brabender said.

Santorum hopes to engage Romney in a conversation about the coming general election campaign and share his suggestions about what might work.

Will Romney get an endorsement?

Romney hopes Santorum will endorse him and help him boost his support among the conservative wing of the party -- a constituency he had problems gaining traction with during the primaries.

"I think it's going to be very important for Mitt Romney to secure the support, the enthusiastic support of Rick Santorum," said Tony Perkins, president of the influential Family Research Council and a longtime Santorum friend. "Those people continue to see him as a voice, a shaping voice, upon Mitt Romney and upon the Republican Party."

While associates of Santorum expect him to eventually endorse Romney, it will not come immediately following this meeting, Brabender predicted.

"I am sure an endorsement will be discussed at this meeting," Brabender said. "The senator is very clear if he does endorse, it will be done for the right reasons, not the wrong reasons." Specifically, Santorum wants to hear assurances of the role the conservative agenda will play in the upcoming campaign.

During an interview on April 24 on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight," Santorum did not use the word "endorse" but made clear he would support Romney. "It's very clear that he's going to be the Republican nominee. I'm going to be for the Republican nominee. We're going to do everything we can to defeat Barack Obama."

Off the table

One issue Santorum's team has taken off the table is using the meeting to request Romney's help to retire debt.

"The senator does not want that on the agenda," Brabender said, adding it is "not appropriate to that meeting."

After Santorum announced he was suspending his campaign, supporters donated a couple of hundred thousand dollars online, Brabender said. The Santorum campaign still has about $1 million in debt.

Santorum can come out of this meeting demonstrating he is a loyal Republican soldier and someone willing to use his influence to help guarantee Obama does not win a second term. He is expected in the next few weeks to unveil his future plans about how he intends to stay engaged in the political sphere.

One thing he has made clear: He intends to use the popularity he built up during the primaries to support conservatives. On Thursday he endorsed Attorney General Jon Bruning in the Nebraska U.S. Senate primary.

"People are looking to him to provide conservative leadership whether he's in the race or not. So I don't think he's going, he says 'I've got to endorse Romney so I've got a political future.' I don't think that's it. I think his political future is remaining, remaining strong on those principle positions that he took," the Family Research Council's Perkins said.

Aides to Santorum have said they believe he should be awarded a prime speaking role at the Republican convention because of the amount of his support, although they emphasize they are speaking for themselves and not on his behalf.

He will get the exposure of a national audience when he appears next week on NBC's "The Tonight Show."

CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger contributed to this report

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Get all the latest news at CNN's Election Center. There are race updates, a delegate counter and much more.
A black man is returning to the White House. Four years ago, it was a first, the breaking of a racial barrier. Tuesday night, it was history redux. And more.
The 2012 presidential election shattered spending records, further polarized a divided country and launched a thousand hashtags.
updated 1:41 PM EST, Thu November 8, 2012
Democratic and Republican congressional leaders continue to sharply disagree over the key issue of whether top tax rates should be raised to help resolve the looming crisis.
updated 2:24 PM EST, Wed November 7, 2012
In a historic turnaround, the ballot box is showing America's shifting attitudes about same-sex marriage.
Even though voters indicated to pollsters that their financial situation is the same or worse than it was four years ago, they put their trust in the president.
updated 4:19 AM EST, Thu November 8, 2012
The president faces a long and familiar set of challenges after riding a wave of support from moderates, women and minorities to victory.
updated 9:27 AM EST, Wed November 7, 2012
Republicans kept a lock on the U.S. House of Representatives, a crucial victory after the party failed to wrest away the presidency from Barack Obama and the Senate from the Democrats.
updated 7:34 PM EST, Wed November 7, 2012
Democrats will retain their control of the Senate after winning several closely contested races on Tuesday.
ADVERTISEMENT