In sum, there is no credible way for Romney to paint Santorum as the consummate Bush-era Republican without condemning himself. If he tries to position himself as an “outsider,” given his lack of Washington experience (versus Santorum’s), all Santorum has to do is point out that the entire Washington GOP establishment backs Mitt — so who’s the real outsider?
One of the advantages SuperPACs have given Romney is that they will be the ones attacking Santorum on his record without making a direct comparison with Romney. Even so, there ought to be no credible way for pro-Romney groups to criticize Santorum for supporting most of the same things Romney also supported, but Romney and his allies have always preferred the strategy of absurdly positioning Romney to the right of his rivals. They have done this from the beginning, and his rivals have usually obliged by taking the bait. Perry pretty much destroyed his campaign over what should have been a relatively minor issue of in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants, and then we saw the spectacle of Gingrich boasting of his support for Medicare Part D. Romney has no business criticizing anyone on any of these issues as if he had credibility as a conservative critic, but he’s been doing it for years, and it’s been more successful than it should have. Of course it isn’t credible! Romney’s reinvention of himself as a conservative isn’t credible! The man is a colossal fraud! Unfortunately, he keeps getting away with it. So it shouldn’t be that difficult for him to paint Santorum as a fiscally irresponsible Washington careerist, because that’s what Santorum is.