Ron Paul is up with an extremely well done TV spot in Michigan ripping into Rick Santorum. Which is great news for Mitt Romney, who is struggling to define the upstart Pennsylvanian there himself.
The ad hits the same themes Romney has been trying to stress in his own attacks on Santorum, mainly his support for earmarks and Bush-era spending items like Medicare Part D that have become toxic on the right in the Tea Party era. Paul’s campaign is also passing around opposition research on Santorum, according to NBC News.
As far as negative campaigning goes, Paul rarely gets mentioned as a mudslinger but he’s actually run some of the toughest ads of the cycle. And, in a nice coincidence for Romney, they’ve often come just as he’s targeting the same candidate with the same message. Take a look at this Paul spot that ran in Iowa right at Newt Gingrich’s peak in December, for example.
This recurring tag-team is something to keep an eye on — reporters are beginning to take notice that Paul and Romney seem to have a genuine personal rapport and their behavior on the trail and in debates seems to reflect it. While on the margins, it certainly helps Romney to have Paul focusing his fire on his opponents, the real benefit may be later in the primary if Romney falls short of clinching the nomination with a majority of delegates. Paul may not be winning states, but he’ll likely end up with a significant batch of delegates loyal to him that could be used to negotiate a deal.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.