For a while, I thought the Republican field was taking it easy on Mitt Romney because they figured he would eventually be the nominee. Maybe some candidates thought they might have a shot to be his running mate. Others might have been angling for a position in his cabinet. Others were more interested in book sales and a job at Fox News, but didn’t want to be remembered for hurting the party’s standard bearer. But it doesn’t feel like the other candidates are pulling their punches anymore. I don’t understand why they waited so long, but Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum are not acting like Romney will shortly be the leader of the GOP. The ads Gingrich’s Super PAC is running against Romney are just brutal. They’re tougher than anything I’d expect from the Obama campaign. Rick Perry is saying that the only reason that Mitt Romney would worry about pink slips is if he thought he wouldn’t have enough to pass out to the American people. That’s on video. You can’t take that back.

It seems like it would be pretty hard to turn around and endorse Romney in a few short months after accusing him of deliberately setting out to ruin the lives of working Americans. I’m sure they’ll do it, but it won’t be very convincing and it will do almost nothing to undo the damage they’re causing to Romney. It seems like the GOP is just coming apart at the seams. They have only one candidate, and they’re carving him up. And it doesn’t normally work like this.

I remember when Bill Bradley had more money than Al Gore and plenty of endorsements and a lead in the New Hampshire polls. But he was under relentless pressure not to go too negative on Gore. And he pulled his punches. He didn’t have what it took to go for broke, and it cost him any chance to wrest the nomination away from Gore. Yet, these Republican candidates don’t even have a plausible path to the nomination and they seem oblivious to Establishment pressure not to bloody Romney.

It’s truly weird, but I’m very grateful that it’s happening. Again, though, why did it take so long?

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