But ... if the goal is gin up resentment against McCain from party activists, maybe Dole isn't such a bad target.
After Dole sent a letter to Rush Limbaugh (kind of a weird choice, there), Romney told Fox News that Dole is "probably the last person I would have wanted to have write a letter for me. I think there a lot of folks who tend to think that maybe John McCain's race is a bit like Bob Dole's race. That it's the guy who's next in line, the inevitable choice."
Conservatives didn't dislike Dole because he was anointed. They disliked him because they did not believe he ever bought into the premises of the conservative revolution and that he was too accommodating toward Democrats.
McCain called Romney's comments "disgraceful."
An hour ago, CBS News's Scott Conroy transcribed Romney's explanation:
"What I am pointing to and wanted to in my comment was that the selection of our nominee based on someone having served in the Senate a long time can be seen as the person who deserves the nomination did not do well for us in that election. it is that aspect, not Sen. Dole that I am referring to with that aspect in choosing someone who has been in the senate the longest and giving it to him out of a sense of obligation that I think it was the error, but there is certainly nothing but respect on my part for senator Dole."
Again -- conservatives didn't trust Dole because they did not believe he was one of them. The comparison with McCain -- from Romney's perspective -- is apt... perhaps unfair and ungenerous, but it's exactly the type of comparison Romney wants conservatives to make.
On the flip side, though, there are plenty of Republican voters today who will find it unseemly that Romney appears to be casting aspersions on a war hero and their 1996 nominee.
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