What Could Santorum Demand from Romney?

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Romney's campaign said shortly after it squeaked by in a narrow Super Tuesday win in Ohio that "the nomination is an impossibility" for Santorum or Gingrich. A Romney campaign strategist told reporters in Boston on Wednesday that Romney needs just 48 percent of the delegates left to secure the nomination.

"We've won 53 percent of them so far," the official said. "For Rick Santorum to get to the nomination he'd have to win 65 percent of the remaining delegates, and he's only won 22 percent of them so far."

Still, the focus on the intricate delegate counting underscores a shift the Romney campaign has taken since Santorum's surprise victories. Whereas once Romney was seen as the only practical candidate for the nomination, his campaign has had to work out a delegate calculus vaguely reminiscent of the long-fought primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008.

Republican observers aren't quick to see too many parallels between the two contests, though, mainly because Santorum trails Romney by a much larger gap than Clinton lagged behind Obama.

But some conservatives, including Sarah Palin, have voiced hope that the nomination isn't determined until the party's August convention.

If the race still hasn't been decided by then, it's possible that Santorum could broker a deal that once might have been thought unimaginable: forfeiting his delegates to Romney in exchange for a spot on the bottom of the ticket.

Henry Barbour, a GOP strategist who backs Romney and who is the nephew of Republican power broker Haley Barbour, has said that Santorum should be considered on the short list. Santoru has ranked relatively high in surveys of Republicans' picks for VP, though he falls behind tea party hero Marco Rubio.

The political "Intrade" prediction market says Santorum has a 6.5 percent chance of becoming the nominee for vice president.

Mark McKinnon, the media message man who worked for the campaigns of George W. Bush and John McCain, said there's "no way" Romney would pick Santorum as a running mate. "That would absolutely ensure defeat in November," McKinnon said in an email.

Warren Tompkins, a Romney supporter who has worked on a half-dozen presidential campaigns including George W. Bush's, questioned whether Santorum would be a good choice given his notoriety as a senator who lost his reelection bid badly in Pennsylvania, a key swing state.

"What good is it to have him on the ticket? Tomkins said, suggesting that another running mate could help Romney shore up support among evangelicals or social conservatives. "You can get someone who can benefit the ticket by doing that – plus bring something else to the table like winning their home state."

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