Burning Question

Mitt Romney's plan to 'nuke Santorum': Will it work?

Team Romney plans to spend 29 times more than Santorum on ads in Michigan this week, and some politicos aren't sure Rick can withstand the barrage

With GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum overtaking Mitt Romney in several national and statewide polls, the former Massachusetts governor is preparing to go after his conservative rival with a series of brutal attack ads. In an interview with Buzzfeed, a Romney advisor laid out the campaign's plans, which "may make previous attacks on Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich look like mere love taps." Romney will reportedly go after Santorum's lack of leadership experience, and will cast him as a longtime Washington insider. The ads will "hit very hard on earmarks, lobbying, [and] voting to raise the debt limit five times," the advisor said. In Michigan this week, Romney and his allied super PACs are set to spend 29 times more on ads than Santorum is. Will Mitt's plan to "nuke Santorum" work?

You betcha: This barrage could finally clear away "the last obstacle standing between Romney and the nomination," says No More Mister Nice Blog. "I didn't think Newt's fans were going to care much about ancient ethics charges in Congress," but then Romney launched his assault, and suddenly Gingrich's supporters began abandoning ship. Mitt has already proven that this is "a pretty effective technique." Santorum will have a hard time riding out the coming storm.
"Mitt Romney: The right's anti-propaganda machine"

Not so fast: Santorum isn't as vulnerable as Gingrich was, says Rachel Weiner at The Washington Post. Gingrich "is an opposition researcher's dream," with his messy personal life, past ethics violation, and history of flip-flopping on key issues. Santorum is "a far less polarizing candidate." And the attack pain laid out by Romney's aide — "earmarks, lobbying, [and] voting to raise the federal debt limit five times" — sounds awfully generic. Those lines "could be used against any former congressman."
"Can money stop Rick Santorum?"

This "incredibly lame" plan could actually hurt Romney: Mitt's onslaught could damage his electability, says Jed Lewison at Daily Kos. Even if he effectively "nukes Santorum" and bags the nomination merely because he's outlasted his competitors, he'll come off looking weak and unlikable. Plus, there's no guarantee that Romney will even be the one who benefits from a Santorum fall. Just as Santorum benefitted from Romney's attacks on Gingrich, Gingrich could reap the rewards this time around.
"Presenting Mitt Romney's (incredibly lame) plan to destroy Rick Santorum"

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