The Republican presidential rumor mill is churning with whispers that Newt Gingrich intends to tap Rick Perry to be his vice president in a rare, pre-convention ticket.
Carl Cameron had the scoop at Fox News Sunday: “Gingrich insiders hope forming a predetermined ticket with Perry will unite the evangelical, Tea Party and very conservative voters that make up the core of the GOP.” The Texas Tribune‘s David Muto dubbed the move Gingrich’s “Hail Mary play.”
Both Gingrich and Perry have coyly denied the rumors. Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for Perry, called the rumor “humbling but premature.” Gingrich’s camp claimed no one there had spoken to Perry about taking the bottom of the ticket, CBS News’ Sarah Huisenga reported.
“While there’s certainly a lot of people who are great admirers of Rick Perry on our campaign,” Gingrich Spokesman R.C. Hammond told CBS News/National Journal, “whether or not the campaign has gone as far as to reach out to Governor Perry about a possible VP ticket, any sort of talks along those lines would be premature — it would be something more appropriate for later on in the process.”
However, on Monday morning, Gingrich campaign advisor Kellyanne Conway said on MSNBC that Gingrich could tap a running mate while the primaries were still underway.
At The Hill, Jonathan Easley saw strategy behind the timing of the rumors: “Talk of adding the Texas governor to the ticket could energize the conservative base for Gingrich ahead of Tuesday’s primaries in Mississippi and Alabama,” Easley wrote. “Gingrich needs to win one, if not both, of Tuesday’s contests to remain credible, as the Santorum campaign is already ratcheting up the pressure for Gingrich to pull out.”
Jim Geraghty at the National Review opined that the rumor seemed typical for Newt: “The argument that it would help Newt win two must-win primary states seems quite typical of the candidate: making one of his most important decisions based upon a short-term political need.” The headline to his piece suggested that Gingrich-Perry would make a better buddy cop movie than presidential ticket.
But if Gingrich could hang on until Texas, Perry’s presence on his ticket might help him scoop up a big chunk of the state’s 155 delegates.