After tonight’s debate, in which Ron Paul and Mitt Romney repeatedly attacked Rick Santorum over his 16-year record in Congress, the former US Senator for Pennsylvania hinted that something nefarious was going on.
“You have to ask Congressman Paul and Governor Romney what they’ve got going together,” Santorum told reporters in the spin room in Mesa, Arizona. “Their commercials look a lot alike and so do their attacks.”
Santorum’s top strategist John Brabender went even further, charging that the two men had “joined forces” and were coordinating attacks against his man
“Clearly there’s a tag team strategy between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. For all I know, Mitt Romney might be considering Ron Paul as his running mate. Clearly there is now an alliance between those two and you saw that certainly in the debate.”
2012 Republican ticket? Ron Paul and Mitt Romney?
The was also coordination in their attack ads, he charged. “Ron Paul for all practical purposes has pulled out of Michigan. Correct? Where’s he running negative ads against Rick Santorum? Michigan.
“It was interesting to me that if you watch Ron Paul when he came into the debate, he wrote negative things about Rick Santorum down because when he started to get questions he would immediately pick up his paper and start mentioning Santorum stuff.”
He added: “What is amazing to me this shows a remarkable ability by Romney, who has already proven to be the most negative man in history on TV, now he’s even training his opponents to be negative for his benefit and actually I think that takes remarkable skill.”
The Romney campaign ridiculed the notion there was any coordination. “If ever there was an iconoclast who got up there and said what he believed, it’s Ron Paul,” said Stuart Stevens, Romney’s chief strategist.
“The President of the United States’s political action committee is now running ads that are just like Rick Santorum’s. Is Rick Santorum coordinating with the President of the United States? I don’t think so.
“So I think that’s a sort of whiney silliness. It would not even be a question if he [Santorum] felt that he’d answered these questions better.
“To say, ‘People are ganging up on me’ in a debate where there’s only four people in the debate and they’re raising questions kind of speaks for itself.”
As many commenters point out, a much more plausible scenario than a Romney-Paul ticket would be some kind of future role for Senator Rand Paul. Or it could simply be that Ron Paul, knowing he cannot win the nomination, is positioning himself for maximum influence at the Tampa convention – he’s all about furthering the cause of his movement rather than personal advancement.
I was on the Scott Hennen Show this morning talking about this and Scott drew my attention to Ron Paul’s apearance on the show on February 7th in which he addressed this issue on the back of a Washington Post story about a “strategic alliance” between the two candidates.
Paul’s denial was not exactly definitive. “Not exactly, I mean I never sat down with Mitt and said ‘Well let’s do this or that’,” he said. “There’s no doubt that he’s been more of a gentleman when I talk to him. It’s never been in my interest to go after him. Everyone else was doing that.
“Matter of fact, I don’t even like that part of politics. But then on the other side of this, we did some ads where we called him a flip flopper, and things like that. There’s nothing strategic. There’s been no decision. The staffs have talked to each other on some of the things like debates – and which debates we should go to – I don’t know how many things we have a strong agreement on.
“Our foreign policies are different – he certainly is not attacking the Federal Reserve – and his record up in Massachusetts wasn’t anything I could get too enthusiastic about, but I would say that the most important thing is that he’s someone I could talk to. I sort of like that approach in everything I do.”
Here’s the audio: