Everybody Hates Romney
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A couple of days before the Republicans' New Hampshire primary, ABC hosted a debate for the GOP field, during which every candidate on the stage attacked Mitt Romney. Huckabee hit him on Iraq, Thompson hit him on healthcare, Giuliani hit him on immigration, and McCain hit him on everything. Romney wasn't actually leading in the polls at that point -- that would have made the criticisms easier to explain -- and hadn't picked any fights during the debate.
It was a reminder that, for all the competing interests and personalities in the Republican contest, these guys really don't like Mitt Romney.
At the end of the Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire this month, when the Democrats joined the candidates on stage, Mitt Romney found himself momentarily alone as his counterparts mingled, looking around a bit stiffly for a companion.
The moment was emblematic of a broader reality that has helped shape the Republican contest and could take center stage again on Thursday at a debate in Florida. Within the small circle of contenders, Mr. Romney has become the most disliked.
With so much attention recently on the sniping between Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama on the Democratic side, the almost visceral scorn directed at Mr. Romney by his rivals has been overshadowed.... Mike Huckabee's pugilistic campaign chairman, Ed Rollins, appeared to stop just short of threatening Mr. Romney with physical violence at one point.
"What I have to do is make sure that my anger with a guy like Romney, whose teeth I want to knock out, doesn't get in the way of my thought process," Mr. Rollins said.
Dan Schnur, a Republican strategist who used to work for McCain, said, "The glee the other candidates go after Romney with is really unique."
Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the lead editor of Salon.com's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, Crooks & Liars, The American Prospect, and the Guardian.