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Michael Cole-Schwartz

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A Vice President Santorum?

Posted: 01/09/12 04:36 PM ET

Let's face reality: Rick Santorum is not going to be elected president in 2012. Thus far, as a candidate, he's been spared the most intense media scrutiny, so the American public hasn't really heard about things like his comparison of gay people to "man on dog" or his view that denying children homes with gay parents is "common sense." There's also his habit of saying that recognizing gay couples' relationships is akin to confusing inanimate objects -- including, but not limited to, cars, trees, tea cups, basketballs, beer, napkins, and paper towels. And let's not forget the time he compared marriage equality in Massachusetts to 9/11.

His rhetoric may have played well in a Republican caucus, but it will surely send independent voters running for the hills. It's almost inconceivable that someone with a record so outside the mainstream could be elected president of the United States. But his candidacy at the top of the ticket is not the only possibility. Think about a Vice President Santorum.

Mitt Romney remains the odds-on favorite to capture the GOP nomination. But he's not without his own baggage, too. Ultra-conservatives don't trust that he's anti-gay enough for them. They remember when he was willing to say anything to get a U.S. Senate seat and made the ludicrous claim that he'd be better for gay rights than Ted Kennedy. Romney also faces being perceived as the ultimate 1-percenter, sitting on a huge personal fortune amassed as the CEO of a company that bought up other companies and laid off workers.

So where could Mitt Romney turn in order to make himself both palatable to his conservative base and tap into an economic populism that he's also missing? Enter the former senator from Pennsylvania who knew how to get out the evangelicals in Iowa and at least talks a good game when it comes to restoring American manufacturing.

Being Mitt Romney's number two isn't the only possibility for Santorum, though. If he's not determined vice-presidential material, there are always cabinet posts. With a strong showing in South Carolina or even faring decently in Florida, it's not inconceivable that Mitt Romney would signal Santorum to be someone he'd consider for an appointment. Stop for a minute and imagine what would be scarier than Rick Santorum as Department of Health and Human Services Secretary?

Rick Santorum is a man who has made discrimination against LGBT people a guiding principle of his public life. While the idea of Santorum as commander-in-chief may be far-fetched, the possibility of him anywhere near the levers of power is this country should be a gigantic wake-up call for all fair-minded Americans.