Video: Fred's camp thinks Mitt's camp planted the Politico story?

Fred’s guy doesn’t want to admit it on camera but Shep, bless his heart, won’t let him get away with the on the record/off the record tapdance. Does Shep’s theory hold up, though? Fred’s people planted the story to generate buzz — despite the huge risk that his caucusers would hear about it on the news, give up, and stay home tonight? It doesn’t even work on Shep’s own terms since Fred hasn’t gone on the air and pounded the table and said he’s not dropping out. He’s denied the Politico story but keeps hedging when asked about New Hampshire. Also, Fred is the least of Romney’s worries right now. If he’s going to go planting stories, he’d try to take out McCain and take some of the air out of his tires before New Hampshire.

For what it’s worth Mary Matalin says Fred’s staying in, come what may. And also for what it’s worth, both Shep and Rich Lowry think the guys who reported the story for Politico are solid. Exit question: How shady does Blunt seem at the end of this clip? Good lord.

Update: Turn the equation around and look at it from Fred’s perspective. If you had to blame someone for planting the story, whom would you choose in order to secure the most electoral advantage? He and McCain are friends so he’s not going to point a finger at him. Huckabee’s wearing his “Christian leader” halo and loudly denouncing negative campaigning (despite Ed Rollins continuing to act like a complete boor) so that’s not likely to fly with voters. The answer is Mitt, whose supporters are most likely to defect to Thompson.