As Katrina noted earlier today, last night, Rick Santorum’s campaign suggested that there may be a covert alliance between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney, especially in view of their behavior at the debate in Arizona. Such a deal would presumably involve Ron Paul attacking Santorum, as he has quite frequently, especially on Santorum’s spending record, so that Romney can avoid further lowering his own favorability ratings.
Paul’s spokesman denies this, noting that they have spent millions on four television ads attacking Romney, but there does seem to be something, prima facie, to their conduct during debates, if one assumes that the alliance would preclude Paul from criticizing Romney in debates. In the previous seven debates, going back to the January 7 New Hampshire debate, Ron Paul has only attacked Mitt Romney once.
In the NBC debate on January 23, after Romney had explained that he considered Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz an act of war, and would respond appropriately, Ron Paul eagerly broke in to offer his opinion. He said:
But I wanted to get involved in the discussion. Because the question was, you know, would you go to war? And Mitt said he would — he would go to war. But you have to think about the preliminary act that might cause them to want to close the Straits of Hormuz, and that`s the blockade. We’re blockading them. Can you imagine what we would do if somebody blockaded the Gulf of Mexico? That would be an act of war. So the act of war has already been committed and this is a retaliation.
Paul’s argument aside, he does, unprompted, directly take on and criticize Romney’s bellicose response.
Interestingly, though, Paul was also offered another chance in the debate to attack Romney, and decided not to: Moderator Brian Williams asked Romney if he was worried about being considered “insufficiently conservative,” and then, later, asked Paul if “the two men in the middle [Romney and Santorum] [were] insufficiently conservative for you.” Rather than attacking either of them, Paul responded, “I think the problem is, is nobody has defined what being conservative means,” and then didn’t deign to mention either of them for the rest of his answer.
Paul’s kid-gloved treatment of Romney in the debates so far doesn’t necessarily say anything about their relationship, but it seems like, of late, Paul has been notably kind to the race’s front-runner.