The first rule of debate club

Updated
By Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
By Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

If you’ve read “Game Change” or listened to Rachel read key portions of it on the show, then you already know that Mitt Romney doesn’t have many friends among his presidency-seeking peers. At least, Gov. Romney didn’t seem to win much admiration among his fellow rivals for the 2008 Republican nomination. Whether you’re in high school or running for the White House, getting bad-mouthed in the bathroom usually indicates that you’ve got a popularity problem.

In the 2012 campaign cycle, it appears that Mitt Romney has found someone he can rely upon to sit with him at lunch. He has found a friend in Ron Paul. As Steve first pointed out in yesterday’s campaign round-up, there have been 20 debates and not once, in any one of them, has Rep. Paul attacked Mitt Romney. This is extremely unusual behavior for a non-frontrunner. When you are trailing in a race, attacking the frontrunner is standard operating procedure, especially in a debate. Write a top ten list of ways to salvage a flailing presidential campaign, and “Attack frontrunner at debate” should be somewhere in Nos. 1, 2 and 3. And it’s not as if Congressman Paul has some sort of moral stance against going negative. In the same study, the folks at Think Progress found that Paul went after his other rivals a combined 39 times in 20 debates. That averages out to about two attacks per debate, against everyone but Romney. He left his figurative lunch buddy alone.

Enter Rick Santorum, whose campaign has spent some time recently complaining to reporters that Romney and Paul have been ganging up against the Pennsylvania conservative. Just yesterday, Sen. Santorum told Tea Party activists in Michigan that Romney and Paul are “coordinating” to block his momentum in the race for the Republican nomination. What at first sounded like whining now has some hard data to back it up. And it’s not just the number-crunching.

There’s also Sheldon Adelson’s latest donation to the Newt Gingrich-affiliated Super PAC. Newt’s billionaire has dumped another “sizable” donation – probably millions – into what is essentially a losing campaign. Since Adelson has already stated that Romney would be an acceptable second option for him, I would not be the first, nor the second, to point out that keeping Newt Gingrich in the race helps Romney win, entirely at the expense of the culture warrior making a late surge for the nomination. Sorry, Rick.

For a guy who didn’t have many friends in metaphor high school, Mitt Romney seems to be making key alliances where it really counts.

Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney

The first rule of debate club

Updated