In recent days, attention has focused on the unusual relationship between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney, who are purportedly competing against each other for the Republican presidential nomination. The New York Times reported recently that Romney has “worked to cultivate” a friendship with Paul. The candidates talk on the phone frequently. And when Paul’s “campaign jet broke down last year,” Romney “offered his jet to take them home to Texas.”
Rick Santorum has directly accused Paul and Romney of working together, noting “their commercials look a lot alike, and so do their attacks.” A review by ThinkProgress of the 20 GOP debates suggests Santorum might be onto something.
While Paul has freely attacked Romney’s top rivals, he has never once attacked Romney:
This is particularly striking given that Paul and Romney do not agree on virtually any policy positions.
Paul has gone beyond merely refraining from attacks. He has actively defended Romney on some of his biggest vulnerabilities. For example, when Rick Perry attacked Romney for “Romneycare” during an October 18 debate, Paul interjected:
First off, you know, the governor of Texas criticized the governor of Massachusetts for “Romneycare,” but he wrote a really fancy letter supporting “Hillarycare.” So we probably ought to ask him about that.
Paul has also run advertisements attacking Romney’s key rivals at critical times. He ran hundreds of thousands of dollars in brutally negative ads attacking Gingrich in Iowa. Paul now is using his scarce funds on a television ad attacking Rick Santorum in Michigan, a key state where Paul is a non-factor.
Paul is effectively acting as Romney’s on-stage surrogate during the debates. The key question is: what is Paul getting out of it?
Ron Paul’s campaign, via the Daily Caller, responds to ThinkProgress’ report: “Congressman Paul has pointed out the bad records of all of his opponents on multiple occasions during debates and interviews.” Notably, the Paul campaign did not directly dispute the conclusions of this study.