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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

On the Next Episode of The Lead

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March 22nd, 2013
06:32 PM ET

Gingrich and Santorum unity ticket: The opponent of my opponent is my friend?

“Anyone but Mitt?” many Republicans cried during last year's Republican primary.

Either Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum would fit that bill.

But how about both of them?

It wasn’t such a far-fetched idea, it turns out that the two bitter conservative Republican presidential candidates might have joined forces to defeat Romney, the party’s frontrunner, according to a new report.

Joshua Green of Businessweek reported Friday that such a presidential ticket with the former senator from Pennsylvania former House speaker - a "unity ticket" - was seriously considered by staffers with both candidates.

He joined CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead” Friday, along with top Santorum adviser John Brabender and Kiki McLean, former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

“What really happened was at some point it became clear that it was going to be Mitt Romney versus an alternate, and the alternate was going to be a conservative,” Brabender said Friday on the program. “I’ve known a lot of these Gingrich people for years, they’re friends of mine. We started to have a discussion of, 'What if we could get a unified conservative ticket?' And the ticket wasn’t necessarily Santorum-Gingrich.

“It was Santorum and getting everybody from Michele Bachmann and Perry and Gingrich, even Sarah Palin, to start coalescing behind Rick Santorum and starting to campaign with him,” Brabender said.

Watch what he says happened next:

There were negotiations between the Gingrich and Santorum campaigns, and Green reported that eventually, the two candidates spoke to each other. Gingrich, Green reported, made the case that he should be atop any so-called unity ticket.

Green, who broke the story, said on the show, “The key to this is it was all happening, or at least the initial talks, as I understood, were happening in the weeks leading up to the pivotal Michigan primary where it looked for a moment like Mitt Romney was going to loose his home state.

“Had he lost it, I think all bets would have been off and it’s not clear who would have emerged as the nominee,” he added.

Would it have meant we’d have a President Santorum or President Gingrich? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or share your thoughts by Twitter: @TheLeadCNN.

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