Given the candidate’s need to keep the candle lit at both ends in Iowa and New Hampshire, in the past hour, the Romney campaign has unleashed a series of attacks on Mike Huckabee (on meth) and John McCain (on taxes). It’s hard to dispute the fact that Mitt Romney has run the most negative campaign, and while I believe that there’s nothing wrong with trying to criticize your rivals during a heated election battle, clearly there is a certain degree of blowback. And for Romney, one of the effects of negative campaigning has been that it’s hard to conceive of a situation under which any of the other top tier candidates endorse him. So far, Tommy Thompson and Sam Brownback have dropped out of the race and went on to endorse Rudy Giuliani and McCain, respectively. Giuliani has already said he would be supporting McCain were he not running himself, McCain can barely contain his contempt for Romney, Mike Huckabee has had kind words for both McCain and Giuliani but sharp criticisms for Romney, and Fred Thompson has repeatedly ribbed Romney for being a flip-flopper while holding fire on his old friend McCain. In making the case for Romney in the magaizine’s endorsement editorial, the National Review editors argued that he’s the candidate in the best position to keep the party together. But will that argument hold if every major candidate who drops out of the race throws their support behind somebody other than Romney?
UPDATE: I now see that Tom Tancredo endorsed Romney today. This development, although a positive for Romney, is not very relevant to my point, since he is neither a top-tier candidate, nor has he been one of the candidates in Romney’s crosshairs.