While Michele Bachmann remained in the race, her choice of targets in the debates raised a few eyebrows. The Tea Party favorite went after Rick Perry and later Newt Gingrich with abandon and regularly jousted with Ron Paul, but seemingly took only a few shots at Mitt Romney. People wondered whether Bachmann and Romney had some sort of strategic alliance, as unlikely as that seems given the policy differences between the two, a notion which came up again this week in rumors that Bachmann would endorse Romney while campaigning in Minnesota — rumors Bachmann vehemently denied.
Today, the Washington Post wonders if a different “strategic alliance” hasn’t taken place in the field:
The remaining candidates in the winnowed Republican presidential field are attacking one another with abandon, each day bringing fresh headlines of accusations and outrage.
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.
This presumes quite a bit, primarily that there is any sort of alliance in place at all. The two may be friends, but what would be the basis of that alliance? They share little on domestic policy outside of the conceptual notion to spend less. They share even less on foreign policy. It’s hard to imagine what Paul’s base would think of an endorsement of Romney, or vice versa for that matter, but well-received is not one of the terms that come to mind. Take another look at Ron Paul’s concession speech for Florida and listen to the boos when Paul graciously congratulates Romney and talks about the pleasant phone call they shared.
So why don’t they attack each other more? Paul is no threat to Romney, for one thing, at least not in the primaries. Why would Romney waste an attack on Paul when he could go after a bigger threat in Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum? Paul really doesn’t attack any specific candidate in the debates, except to answer their attacks on him; he goes on the attack against all of them as a group, and does much the same in his advertising. Paul is the one candidate running against his party while trying to win its nomination, or more accurately, trying to push the party in his direction. Romney and Paul are talking past each other, not at or with each other, in this campaign.
To the extent that there is any strategic action taking place, that would have more to do with the future than with the primaries. Romney wants to make sure that Paul doesn’t bolt the party this year, and Paul wants to make sure that his son has a bright future within it, as the Post notes, but that has little to do with the lack of specific frontal attacks between Romney and Paul. And that’s hardly an “alliance,” either. It’s common sense, not a conspiracy.