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The Brief: Feb. 27, 2012

Have Mitt Romney and Ron Paul conspired to defeat Rick Santorum?

Rick Santorum leaving the stage at Valley High School in Des Moines, Iowa, after a Rock the Caucus speech on Jan. 3, 2012.

The Big Conversation:

Have Mitt Romney and Ron Paul conspired to defeat Rick Santorum?

Santorum thinks so, and he made that clear over the weekend while campaigning in Michigan.

"Why is [Paul] being the wingman for Mitt Romney throughout the course of this campaign?” Santorum told a Tea Party crowd outside of Detroit.

Santorum began lobbing such accusations last week, claiming that Romney and Paul had tag-teamed him at Wednesday's CNN debate. The friendship Paul and Romney appear to have cultivated on the campaign trail has long stirred whispers of an arrangement between the two candidates.

“The coordination that I felt at that debate the other night was pretty clear,” Santorum said Saturday. “I felt like the messages were being slipped behind my chair.”

Why the conspiracy theories? Some say Romney eventually wants Paul's delegates; in return, Paul gets a prime speaking role at the Republican National Convention and the ability to influence the party's platform. Some say Paul's angling for even more: a vice presidential slot for his son, Rand Paul, the U.S. senator from Kentucky.

“I didn’t know they would have picked a president and vice president” already, Santorum said in a nod to the veep speculation.

The former Pennsylvania senator, who has vowed to wage a long, intense battle against front-runner Romney, called Paul "fake," as Paul has called Santorum. He added, "We need to go out and say we don’t need the Ron Paul faction and the moderate establishment teaming up to attack the real conservative in this race."

The Paul and Romney campaigns have denied the charges. "The notion that Ron Paul would do anything but speak his mind is not an argument you can push very far,” said Stuart Stevens, a senior Romney campaign adviser. “If ever there was an iconoclast who got up there and said what he believes, it’s Ron Paul.”

Culled:

  • The Texas Supreme Court on Friday unanimously ruled that landowners own the water beneath their land. The case, brought by two San Antonio-area farmers challenging the Edwards Aquifer Authority, bears potentially vast implications for groundwater rules in Texas, where drillers who want to put a well on their land generally must go to their local groundwater conservation district for approval.
  • Reggie Bashur, an influential lobbyist and political and media consultant who first appeared in Texas politics as a press aide to Gov. Bill Clements, died on Saturday afternoon. The 59-year-old, known for his honesty and candor, had been battling cancer for several months.
  • A group of Texas parents on Friday filed the fifth school finance lawsuit of its kind in recent months. The suit, though, makes a new argument against the funding system, focusing not on whether the state adequately pays for schools but rather whether the way it distributes money is efficient and equitable.

"To say that people are ganging up on me in a debate — when there’s only four people in the debate and they’re raising questions – kinds of speaks for itself." — Senior Romney campaign adviser Stuart Stevens on allegations that Mitt Romney and Ron Paul have joined forces to defeat Rick Santorum

Must-Read:

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