Via Ben Smith, not for a moment do I believe this is true but it’s amusing to watch talk radio start to turn on their favored candidate from 2008 this early.

I like Mitt Romney, but I think he’s risking his career over a guy, endorsing McCain, who is so out of step with what’s going on right now. McCain’s always conservative when he’s running for reelection in Arizona. The tea parties have produced a wave of conservatism that have swept Republicans-in-name-only aside. I understand Palin endorsing McCain. She’s got no choice. Loyalty, plus if she doesn’t the media will cream her, “Oh, he’s good enough to be president but you won’t endorse him to be Senator?” And it’s understandable Romney would endorse Brown, but I don’t understand Romney endorsing McCain. I just don’t think it’s going to fly. These endorsements are unnecessary. What is there to gain by this? Look, it’s unfortunate, but people are weeding themselves out of the process all the while engaging in this kind of behavior. So in one sense it has a cleansing aspect to it…

This is what I’m telling you now, I tried to say that the Republican Party is trying to fight this off right now, they’re trying to fight off the tea party people. They’re trying to avoid being run over by them. Nobody is willingly going to give up a position of leadership they think they hold and a lot of people, it’s very difficult for people to change their core. Now, again, with Romney endorsing McCain, this is all about the future. This is Romney wanting McCain’s endorsement in 2012 if he runs for president. This is all about Republicans hanging together and this is one of the things that irritates people, especially new arrivals, to what is considered to be the same old politics. It is tone deaf, it’s suicidal, at least it seems to me, but at least you find out where people think things are important early on in a process like this so it’s got its value even though it does make you mad…

Okay, so imagine you got this tent, and we all know that McCain is still ticked off that he didn’t win the presidency, and he’s still ticked off that he had to fight so hard to win the nomination. So 2012 comes along, let’s say McCain loses the Senate run, so now he’s out there really ticked off, and some people just might — just throwing this out there, I’m not trying to convince you of this. I don’t even know if it’s true or even accurate. But maybe they’re just figuring down the road they’d rather have McCain not outside the tent throwing bombs at ’em, rather have him inside the tent doing whatever he’s doing, I think either way it’s irrelevant because I think you’re right, the era of McCain’s over.

Well, look. Granted, Romney can’t go around endorsing every centrist against every tea-party darling; that would alienate the base irretrievably and he needs them for the general election if he’s the nominee. But he’s not stupid. He will endorse some tea-party faves, most likely starting with Rubio in Florida. That race is practically a foregone conclusion already and Crist screwed him two years ago by backing McCain so Mitt should have no reservations. If he jumps in for Rubio — the earlier the better — it’ll help offset his support for Maverick. As for why he shouldn’t support Hayworth too, what good would it do him if he did? Romney’s never going to be a grassroots all-star. He could endorse every last candidate touted by Rush Limbaugh and the base will still view him suspiciously, partly because of RomneyCare, partly because he’s an, ahem, “elitist,” and partly because of his record of opportunistically flip-flopping on social issues. (And, for some social cons, partly because he’s a Mormon.) Why alienate his natural base — centrists — to woo a faction that’ll never warm to him? As radical and risky as Romney’s “concede the south” strategy is, and as impressive as the growth of the tea-party movement may be, there’s no reason to believe that a center-right candidate is doomed to fail against a more conservative one in the primary, especially if the conservative is someone whom 70 percent of Americans think is unqualified. McCain’s endorsement will help Romney with centrists but Hayworth’s endorsement would help him with … who, exactly? The sort of people who already screech “RINO!” when they see him? I don’t get it.

Update: A commenter objects that Romney wasn’t talk radio’s favored candidate in 2008. He certainly was among the McCain/Mitt/Huckabee big three, but if you include Fred Thompson in the equation, I suppose that’s fair enough.