flurry of negative ads from Mitt Romney allies helped prevent Newt Gingrich, an erstwhile GOP presidential frontrunner, from finishing better than fourth in the Iowa caucuses and, apparently, Newt's miffed enough to launch a "kamikaze mission" to take Romney down. On Wednesday, Newt told conservative radio talker Laura Ingraham that such attacks could "absolutely" be a team effort with surging Republican Rick Santorum. The idea makes a certain sense, says Paul Kane at The Washington Post: "Two close friends from the original Republican revolution" of the early 1990s are now fighting for the same anti-Romney votes. But could an "anti-Romney alliance" of Gingrich and Santorum really damage the GOP race's prohibitive favorite?
This could cripple Mitt: Santorum probably can't prevent Romney from eventually becoming the GOP nominee, says Noam Scheiber at The New Republic. But if he's "savvy enough" to implicitly endorse Newt's Romney-bashing plan, Santorum would get "the great luxury of a Romney hit man for which [he] can't be held responsible." That "secret weapon" could easily help Santorum prolong the primary fight — and, inadvertently, damage Mitt enough to all but guarantee that Obama beats a weakened Romney in November.
"How Rick Santorum could cost Romney the presidency"
Newt will likely fail to take Romney down: It's certainly possible that "a bunch of sour Gingrich attacks may stretch the process out and damage Romney for the fall," says Rod Dreher at The American Conservative. But it's unlikely. Remember, people predicted that the "protracted, ugly Obama vs. Clinton contest" would sink Obama in 2008's general election. Needless to say, that "didn't happen." Besides, I'm not sure "kamikaze Newt" has the ammunition to be "much more than an ankle-biter" to the well-vetted Romney.
If Newt wants to hurt Mitt, he should drop out: It might be tempting for Santorum and Co. to "send Gingrich off as their errand boy to rough up Romney," then "pick up the support that Gingrich dislodges," says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. But instead of enabling Newt's "campaign-turned-public temper-tantrum," Santorum should try to get Newt out of the race. The 10 to 15 percent of the vote Gingrich will keep drawing makes it impossible for Santorum to "consolidate the non-Romney base," thus ensuring that Romney wins.
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