Patrick Ruffini argues that it doesn’t make sense for John McCain to be attacking Mitt Romney. His argument boils down to the fact that if the punch lands, it still leaves Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson standing and, probably, helps them.
But there are a lot of strategic and tactical things going on here. First of all, tomorrow Romney speaks to the National Right to Life Convention in St. Louis. According to the AP:
The only major contender with confirmed plans to attend was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who’s facing questions about what an aide called Romney’s conversion to the anti-abortion cause several years ago. Also expected to participate was Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, a strong abortion opponent.
I think that the McCain team is trying to frame what happens at this convention. The people at this convention are likely to determine who, if anyone, NRLC endorses for President. That is why so much anti-Thompson oppo is falling, probably from the Romney campaign. And that is why McCain is dropping it on Romney. And that is why Romney is frantically responding with press release after press release. If RTL were to come out against Romney and do what they did to McCain and 2000, it would be brutal. It would seal Romney as a the country club candidate, which he really is.
So let’s make this clear. Romney is vulnerable on abortion. And McCain and Brownback are interested in laying in the knife. And Romney is scrambling to respond. And in this moment, this issue matters a lot. In this moment, the tactics have huge strategic consequences.
The last big pro-life event, the March for Life, was basically a Romney-Brownback brawl. Anything that helps Brownback in that fight keeps that fight alive on the right. And, remember something, McCain is the only of the big-4 candidates who supports the Human Life Amendment, which used to be the big pro-life litmus test. McCain probably doesn’t win with a highly satisfied pro-life community in this race because it probably isn’t him. But with an unsatisfied one, he has a chance of drawing some contrasts, picking up some votes, and the votes that he isn’t getting aren’t going to just one candidate.
Now Patrick has another argument about the long-term problems of picking on Romney. I am still thinking about those. But what is going on this week is not about long-term. It is about the next 2 days in Kansas City.