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February 23, 2012

Santorum Suspects Romney-Paul Alliance; Other People Suspecting This Include Me, Everyone Else

What an odd alliance. Made up of one person I loathe and another person I used to oppose. And now I'm okay with it.

Politics, bedfellows, etc.

Santorum says they're in cahoots.

"You have to ask Congressman Paul and Gov. Romney what they've got going together," Santorum said. "Their commercials look a lot alike, and so do their attacks."

"They've got something going on?" a reporter asked Santorum.

"You tell me," Santorum said.

Santorum's aides have long suspected that Romney and Paul have some sort of deal by which they attack other candidates but not each other. "Clearly there is a tag-team strategy between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney," top Santorum strategist John Brabender told reporters after the debate. "There've been 20 debates, right? Why don't you go back and see how many times Ron Paul has ever criticized anything Mitt Romney has done."

"Ron Paul has for all practical purposes pulled out of Michigan," Brabender continued, referring to next Tuesday's primary. "Anybody see him up in Michigan? And yet where is he running negative ads against Santorum? Michigan."

A few feet away, Romney aides dismissed the accusations as "whiny silliness."

Except it's not silly at all. From February 1st:

Mitt Romney and Ron Paul haven’t laid a hand on each other.

They never do.

Despite deep differences on a range of issues, Romney and Paul became friends in 2008, the last time both ran for president. So did their wives, Ann Romney and Carol Paul. The former Massachusetts governor compliments the Texas congressman during debates, praising Paul’s religious faith during the last one, in Jacksonville, Fla. Immediately afterward, as is often the case, the Pauls and the Romneys gravitated toward one another to say hello.

The Romney-Paul alliance is more than a curious connection. It is a strategic partnership: for Paul, an opportunity to gain a seat at the table if his long-shot bid for the presidency fails; for Romney, a chance to gain support from one of the most vibrant subgroups within the Republican Party.

Beyond the oddball friendship, what else do they have cooking?

Romney’s aides are “quietly in touch with Ron Paul,” according to a Republican adviser who is in contact with the Romney campaign and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss its internal thinking....

“Ron Paul wants a presence at the convention,” the adviser said — and Romney, if he is the nominee, would grant it.

When I read this, Paul's odd behavior with regard to Perry suddenly made sense. I didn't figure Paul would ride Perry that hard. Perry is, after all, a fairly "extreme" 10th Amendmenter himself. And certainly, from Paul's perspective, looking at just the politics of it, he ought to be more afraid of Romney-- and RomneyCare -- than Perry's relatively inconsequential deviations from Leave Us Alone type thinking.

But Paul savaged Perry, again and again. And never said a negative peep about Romney.

So there you go.

This conspiracy theory... is actually true.

Niche Protection. Romney also benefited from Michele Bachmann's decision to play attack dog for him.

Among grubby transactional reasons for playing Romney's pitbull -- I scratch your back, you make me VP -- I thin Romney has benefited from outsider/Tea Party candidates all savaging each other, because each of them constituted a threat to every other one's niche identity as Tea Party leader.

Competition tends to occur between people with similar appeals. The Goth Girl doesn't compete with the Cheerleader Queen. The Goth Girl competes hard against the Pretty Punk Chick.

To them, the Cheerleader Queen is in a whole different category, outside their niche. She's not a threat because she's a whole different animal, competing for different resources. (The dude who likes the Cheerleader Queen probably won't dig the Goth Girl (Hollywood movies notwithstanding). But the dude who likes the Goth Girl might just also like the Pretty Punk Girl, and hence the problem.)

Anyway, I think of series of candidates haven't minded losing as long as they lost to the Cheerleader Queen (Romney, in this analogy), but have bitterly resented losing to anyone else, anyone in their slice of High School America.

I have my own special Palin-Hating theory on this score-- she couldn't support Perry, for example, as he was way too close to her identity for comfort.

A Gingrich, on the other hand... Well that's different. Gingrich is intellectual, brain-trusting, urbane, cosmopolitan and, one strongly suspects, more secular in orientation than he might indicate in a Republican primary. Completely different animal than Palin. No threat to her position as Top of the Rural Religious Outsider Coalition.

And yes I know now she's pretty supportive of Santorum. Theories aren't typically 100% predictive or inclusive of all variables. (Edited: I initially wrote she "supported" Santorum, which isn't formally true. She seems to speak positively about him lately, now that Newt has fallen.)

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posted by Ace at 01:06 PM

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