The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and the likeliest explanation is usually the most straightforward and least complex. So when rumors started surfacing last month that Newt Gingrich’s Super PAC sugar daddy Sheldon Adelson was supporting Newt Gingrich in order to hurt Rick Santorum and help Mitt Romney it all sounded like too much 3-dimensional chess to me. Wouldn’t it just make more sense to back Romney? Why risk hurting Romney with negative ads – something that really did happen thanks to Gingrich’s rough-and-tumble South Carolina campaign – when you could use your money to prop up Romney’s campaign?
It doesn’t make sense.
But it’s just one billionaire with an agenda. That doesn’t make him a brilliant political strategist. It’s a fairly basic strategy all told – just point and shoot your money camera and hope something sticks.
The latest conspiracy theory is far more complex. Writing in The Exile, Mark Ames suggests that too many people in one of Ron Paul’s Super PACs have ties to the Huntsman and Romney campaigns for it to be a coincidence. I wrote recently about what I described as Ron Paul’s divide and conquer strategy. The Texas congressman has never attacked Mitt Romney in any of the GOP debates this election season, but he’s gone after just about every other candidate. Ames thinks something more sinister is at play:
Moreover, the SuperPAC’s staff and founders include several former Romney supporters and Huntsman supporters. And one of the founding principals of Endorse Liberty, Ladd Christensen, is something of an oligarch in Utah: Christensen is the longtime business partner of John Huntsman’s billionaire dad. They founded Huntsman Chemicals together, as well as Hunstman-Christensen.
Huntsman endorsed Mitt Romney when he bowed out of the race—in fact, Huntsman has a history of stepping aside for Mitt Romney and playing his second banana, going back at least to the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002, which John’s billionaire dad helped to fund on behalf of Mitt Romney.
So to repeat: Ron Paul’s SuperPAC is based in Salt Lake City, and one of the founders is Ladd Christensen, John Huntsman’s business partner in Huntsman-Christensen and Huntsman Chemicals.
A couple of quick points. First it’s Jon Huntsman. No “H” in there. Not to nit-pick, but c’mon.
Second, Utah is not Mitt Romney’s backyard. He’s an East Coast Mormon. But I understand where Mark is going here. The Mormon connection may indeed be enough to bind Huntsman and Romney together. I’m less certain it’s enough to get Paul on board. Some independent, libertarian-leaning people with deep pockets backed Huntsman, but now that he’s gone is Paul the next best choice? Or are we really dealing with a Mormon conspiracy theory that has somehow netted the Paul campaign to play softball with Romney?
Ames pulls this quote from Morning Joe:
“The thing that went unspoken but everybody knows, and that is that Mitt Romney and Ron Paul have formed an alliance,” Scarborough said. “It is such an obvious alliance that Mitt Romney would do well to just come out and admit it. I don’t know what he’s promised Ron Paul. I don’t know if Ron Paul is hoping that his son gets in the administration. But let’s just be really honest here — for all the people for Ron Paul to form an alliance with in the Republican Party, to pick out Mitt Romney is really bizarre.”
Maybe so, but again we need to look at the likeliest explanation, and Ames’s theory hardly seems like it. Ames has a lengthy critique of Peter Thiel and uses that as some sort of evidence. Now we have a cynical ploy by Thiel, a conglomerate of Very Rich Mormons, and the Paul campaign to try to support Romney and hurt his rivals.
But again, wouldn’t it make more sense for these rich and powerful men to just put their money into Romney’s Super PAC? That war chest is much larger than Paul’s, but plenty of people are starting to say that Romney’s campaign is hurting for cash.
I guess it’s possible that Paul wants a spot on Romney’s ticket, or wants a more prominent role in the Republican Party in order to position his son Rand for a run, but it’s also possible that Paul is just waiting for his turn to take on Romney after the front-runner is wounded badly enough. Honestly, Mark’s theory makes for great political speculation but it’s not compelling precisely because you have to jump through too many hoops to make it work. Or rather, too many people involved have to jump through too many hoops to make it work.
Besides, how people behave in debates or on their ads says very little about their past or future support for a rival. Huntsman had some very harsh anti-Romney ads (and words) during his brief run and later endorsed the former Massachusetts governor.
And it’s not as though he’s always used kids gloves with Romney, either, despite what people are saying:
Another forceful response on foreign policy here.
Is it possible that Paul can sufficiently undermine Romney simply by disagreeing so fundamentally with Romney’s ideas and painting that contrast so effectively?
It seems more likely than long-shot conspiracy theories. But that’s just me. I never was a fan of conspiracy theories.
Update – here’s a Ron Paul ad that ran first in South Carolina and is recirculating now: