Edsall: Attack on Mitt is McCain camp's death rattle; Update: McCain buys "Mitt vs. Fact" URL; Update: Brownback piles on

Neither Ace nor Kaus nor I understand why he persists in smacking Romney. A McCain pal told the Hill that the campaign is “in the doldrums,” which might explain the attack but doesn’t explain why he’s attacking the guy in fourth place instead of the Rockefeller Republican who’s leading nationally. Back in the days Before Fred I theorized that he and Rudy would each hammer Mitt to drive him out so that neither one had to face a social con head-on for the nomination. With Fred running, though, that theory explodes: even if they did get rid of Mitt, his supporters would bounce to Thompson.

Edsall’s theory:

The McCain campaign’s abrupt decision to lash out at Mitt Romney as a flip-flopper on abortion is a last ditch bid to revive a candidate whose poll numbers and financial resources are dwindling…

McCain has targeted Romney because of Romney’s lead in the early caucus and primary states. Romney has been spending more than $4 million on advertising to take first place in polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and he is expected to attempt to launch television ads soon in South Carolina.

The net result has been the marginalization of McCain. Marginal candidates cannot raise money, making it much more difficult for McCain to compete in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the three early primary states that can make or break campaigns.

The only one of those where McCain’s leading right now is in redder-than-red South Carolina and even there a few polls have Giuliani, of all people, ahead of him. With two social cons in the race now and the amnesty bill like a bear trap cinched on his leg, why not focus his energies on knocking out Rudy, reclaiming the center for himself, and running on his war record? That would leave Fred and Mitt to wrestle for the social-con slot and would let him argue, not implausibly, that as the most centrist of the three he stands the best chance of attracting independents in the general election.

Exit question one: Why hasn’t anyone attacked Rudy yet? Exit question two: Ace thinks if McCain does drop out, Rudy will stand to benefit the most. I think the converse of that is true, but that McCain’s supporters are more likely to catch Fredmania than Rudymania. Who’s right?

Update: Totally pathetic, totally embarrassing.

In another sign of John McCain’s plan to assault former Mitt Romney over his alleged flip-flops, the Arizona senator’s campaign has purchased the website “www.mittvsfact.com” and will launch it in the coming weeks as a compendium of what they say are the former governor’s differing stances.

The McCain camp yesterday attacked Romney on abortion under a “Mitt vs Fact” letterhead that aped their rival’s campaign logo. Late in the day, a tipster pointed out that a URL of the same had been purchased and privately registered. A McCain aide confirmed today that they secured the site last month and indicated that they would use it as a sort of one-stop-shop “to brand” Romney.

They’ve been desperate for weeks.

Update: This makes sense, at least.